overview

Opened in 1913 for vaudeville, and reopened as a legitimate theater in 1966, the Palace Theater has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Waters, Sophie Tucker, Harvey Fierstein, Tommy Tune, Michael Bennett, Joel Grey, and Bob Mackie, among others.

The theater’s historic facade has been demolished.

Header Photo
Palace Theater Interior. Source: Spotlight on Broadway 2013.

History

The Palace Theater opened as an enormous vaudeville venue in 1913. Over the next two decades it featured such LGBT stars as Sarah BernhardtMarie DresslerFlorence MillsEthel WatersJulian Eltinge, and Sophie Tucker. In 1932 it was converted into a movie theater. Gay icon Judy Garland appeared here in concert in 1951-52, wearing gowns designed by Irene Sharaff, and directed by Charles Walters; she performed here again in 1956-57 and 1967.

The Palace was restored and reopened in 1966 as a legitimate theater. Huge LGBT-associated hits here have been Sweet Charity (1966-67) with Lee Roy ReamsApplause (1970-72), with costume design by Ray Aghayan, and with actor Lee Roy ReamsWoman of the Year (1981-83), with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb (Best Original Score Tony Award); La Cage aux Folles (1983-87) by Harvey Fierstein (Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical Tony Awards), directed by Arthur Laurents (Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award), with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (Best Original Score Tony Award); The Will Rogers Follies (1991-93), directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune (Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography Tony Awards), and with dancer Jerry MitchellBeauty and the Beast (1994-99), with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and with actor Gary Beach; and Aida (2000-2004), with music by Elton John (Best Original Score Tony Award), and scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley (Best Scenic Design Tony Award).

Other LGBT-associated shows at the Palace have included Henry, Sweet Henry (1967), choreographed by Michael BennettGeorge M! (1968-69) by Michael Stewart and John and Francine Pascal, with costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Joel GreyCyrano (1973), with costume design by Desmond HeeleyDon Juan in Hell (1973) with Agnes MooreheadAn Evening with Josephine Baker (1973-74) starring Josephine BakerLorelei (1974), with costumes by Bob Mackie and Ray Aghayan, and with actor Lee Roy ReamsLondon Assurance (1974-75), with costume design by David Walker and Michael Stennett, and with actor Roger ReesGoodtime Charley (1975), with scenic design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and with actor Joel GreyToller Cranston’s “The Ice Show” (1977), with costume design by Miles WhiteThe Grand Tour (1979) by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and with actor Joel GreyOklahoma! (revival, 1979-80), based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs (1931) by Lynn Riggs; and Minnelli on Minnelli (1999-2000) by and directed by Fred Ebb, with songs from the movies of Vincente Minnelli, and with costume design by Bob Mackie.

The theater’s historic façade has been demolished, and plans are currently underway to elevate the designated landmark interior, in order to create retail space below it.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Kirchhoff & Rose
  • Year Built: 1912-13

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, Nov. 14, 2007.

  3. Internet Broadway Database.

  4. Palace Theater Interior Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

  5. “Palace Theatre (New York City),” bit.ly/2YSpmGL.

Curated Themes

43 Sites

Broadway Theater District

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

1260 Avenue of the Americas
Gay Activists Alliance Zap at Radio City Music Hall
Public Spaces
1697-1699 Broadway
Ed Sullivan Theater (originally Hammerstein’s Theater)
Performance Venues
481 Eighth Avenue
Magnus Hirschfeld at the Hotel New Yorker
Residences