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: Sarah Sargent/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

History

Alvin Theater
The biggest hits with LGBT associations at the Alvin Theater were Anything Goes (1934) and Something for the Boys (1943-44), with lyrics and music by Cole Porter, the latter with choreography by Jack ColeLady in the Dark (1941), with costume design by Irene Sharaff and with actor Danny Kaye as a stereotypical gay character; No Time for Sergeants (1955), with Roddy McDowallBells Are Ringing (1958-59), with choreography by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, and scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, with Judy Holliday (Best Actress Tony Award; opened at the Shubert Theater); 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; and Company (1970) (Best Musical, Book of a Musical, Original Score, and Lyrics Tony Awards) by George Furth, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and musical staging by Michael Bennett with Bob Avian, associate choreographer.

Other productions with LGBT creators at the Alvin were Spring is Here (1929), Heads Up (1929), I’d Rather Be Right (1937), and The Boys from Syracuse (1938), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, the latter two with costume design by Irene SharaffRed, Hot and Blue! (1936), with music and lyrics by Cole PorterVery Warm for May (1939-40), with scenic and costume design by Vincente MinnelliThe Firebrand of Florence (1945), with costume design by Raoul Pene Du BoisBillion Dollar Baby (1945-46), with choreography by Jerome Robbins and scenic design by Oliver Smith, with actor James MitchellA Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1951), with costume design by Irene SharaffTwo’s Company (1952-53) and Oh Captain! (1958), with costume design by Miles WhiteHouse of Flowers (1954) by Truman Capote, with scenic and costume design by Oliver Messel (Best Scenic Design Tony Award); Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: U.S.A. (1958), choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with costume design by Irene Sharaff, and with dancer Tommy AbbottWest 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); High Spirits (1964-65) directed by Noel Coward, with Beatrice LillieFlora, the Red Menace (1965), with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred EbbIt’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman! (1966), with costume design by Florence Klotz, and with actor Jack CassidySherry! (1967), with costume design by Robert MackintoshRosencrantz 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; and Merrily We Roll Along (1981), by George Furth, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

LGBT performers at the Alvin included Marjorie Main in Music in the Air (1932-33), Georgette Harvey in Porgy and Bess (1935-36), Alfred Lunt and Montgomery Clift in There Shall Be No Night (1940), Marlon Brando in A Flag is Born (1946), Maurice Evans in Man and Superman (1947), Mary Martin in Kind Sir (1953), Farley Granger in First Impressions (1959), Anthony Perkins and Grover Dale in Greenwillow (1959), and Walter Pidgeon in Dinner at Eight (revival, 1966).

Neil Simon Theater
In 1983 it was renamed the Neil Simon Theater. Shows with LGBT creators and performers included Blithe Spirit (revival, 1987) by Noel Coward, with actor Richard ChamberlainBreaking the Code (1987-88), about Alan Turing, with Derek JacobiOrpheus Descending (revival, 1989) by Tennessee WilliamsA View from the Bridge (revival, 1998) with Stephen SpinellaMatthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (1998-99), directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, and with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; and The Music Man (revival, 2000-2001), with costume design by William Ivey Long.

Building Information

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

Sources

  1. 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, Nov. 14, 2007.

  2. Internet Broadway Database.

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

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

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