overview

Opened as the Alvin Theater in 1927 and renamed the Neil Simon Theater in 1983, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Cole Porter, Jerome Robbins, Raoul Pene Du Bois, Stephen Sondheim, Michael Bennett, Truman Capote, Marjorie Main, Mary Martin, and Noel Coward, among others.

The play Lady in the Dark (1941), with costume design by Irene Sharaff, featured actor Danny Kaye as a stereotypical gay character.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2022.

History

Alvin Theater
This venue opened as the Alvin Theater in 1927. The biggest hits with LGBT associations at the Alvin were:

  • Anything Goes (1934), with lyrics and music by Cole Porter
  • Lady in the Dark (1941), with costume design by Irene Sharaff and with actor Danny Kaye as a stereotypical gay character, and dancer Nelson Barclift
  • Something for the Boys (1943-44), with lyrics and music by Cole Porter, and choreography by Jack Cole
  • No Time for Sergeants (1955), with actor Roddy McDowall
  • Bells Are Ringing (1958-59; opened at the Shubert Theater), with choreography by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, and with actor Judy Holliday (Best Actress Tony Award)
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962-64; Best Musical Tony Award), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and with choreography by Jack Cole
  • Company (1970; Best Musical Tony Award) by George Furth (Best Book of a Musical Tony Award), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Best Original Score and Best Lyrics Tony Awards), and musical staging by Michael Bennett with Bob Avian, associate choreographer

 

Other productions by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers at the Alvin were:

  • Spring is Here (1929), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart
  • Heads Up (1929), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart
  • Music in the Air (1932-33), with actor Marjorie Main
  • Porgy and Bess (1935-36), with actor Georgette Harvey
  • Red, Hot and Blue! (1936), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter
  • I’d Rather Be Right (1937), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • The Boys from Syracuse (1938), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Very Warm for May (1939-40), with scenic and costume design by Vincente Minnelli
  • There Shall Be No Night (1940), with actors Alfred Lunt and Montgomery Clift
  • Sadie Thompson (1944-45), a musical adapted from the play Rain, by John Colton and Clemence Randolph, which was based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Firebrand of Florence (1945), with costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois
  • Polonaise (1945), with lyrics by John La Touche
  • Billion Dollar Baby (1945-46), with choreography by Jerome Robbins, scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor James Mitchell
  • A Flag is Born (1946), with actor Marlon Brando
  • Man and Superman (1947), with actor Maurice Evans
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1951), with costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Two’s Company (1952-53), with costume design by Miles White
  • Kind Sir (1953), with actor Mary Martin
  • The Golden Apple (1954), by and with lyrics by John La Touche
  • House of Flowers (1954) by Truman Capote, and with scenic and costume design by Oliver Messel (Best Scenic Design Tony Award)
  • Oh Captain! (1958), with costume design by Miles White
  • Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: U.S.A. (1958), choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with costume design by Irene Sharaff, and with dancer Tommy Abbott
  • First Impressions (1959), with actor Farley Granger
  • Once Upon a Mattress (1959-60; opened at the Phoenix Theater) co-authored and lyrics by Marshall Barer
  • Greenwillow (1960), choreographed by Joe Layton, and with actors Anthony Perkins and Grover Dale
  • West Side Story (return engagement, 1960) by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, choreography by Jerome Robbins and Peter Gennaro, scenic design by Oliver Smith, costume design by Irene Sharaff, and with actor Larry Kert (opened at the Winter Garden Theater)
  • New Faces of 1962 (1962), with actor Michael Fesco
  • High Spirits (1964-65) directed by Noel Coward, and with actor Beatrice Lillie
  • Flora, the Red Menace (1965), with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
  • It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman! (1966), with costume design by Florence Klotz, and with actor Jack Cassidy
  • Dinner at Eight (revival, 1966), with actor Walter Pidgeon
  • Sherry! (1967), with costume design by Robert Mackintosh
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967-68), with scenic and costume design by Desmond Heeley (Best Scenic Design and Costume Design Tony Awards)
  • Molly (1973), choreographed by Grover Dale
  • Annie (1977-81), with actor Reid Shelton
  • Merrily We Roll Along (1981), by George Furth, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

 

Neil Simon Theater
In 1983, the venue was renamed the Neil Simon Theater. Shows by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers at the Neil Simon included:

 

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (June 2019, with multiple additions).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Herbert J. Krapp
  • Year Built: 1927

Sources

  1. “The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” www.imdb.com, May 31, 2013.

  2. Adam Hetrick, “The Work of Broadway’s Gay and Lesbian Artistic Community Goes on Display Nov. 14 When the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation Gallery Presents ‘StageStruck: The Magic of Theatre Design’,” Playbill, November 14, 2007.

  3. Alvin Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1985).

  4. Internet Broadway Database.

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