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.

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History

The Palace Theater opened as an enormous vaudeville venue in 1913. Over the next two decades it featured such LGBT stars as Sarah Bernhardt, Marie Dressler, Florence Mills, Ethel Waters, Julian 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 Reams; Applause (1970-72), with costume design by Ray Aghayan, and with actor Lee Roy Reams; Woman 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 Mitchell; Beauty 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 Bennett; George M! (1968-69) by Michael Stewart and John and Francine Pascal, with costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Joel Grey; Cyrano (1973), with costume design by Desmond Heeley; Don Juan in Hell (1973) with Agnes Moorehead; An Evening with Josephine Baker (1973-74) starring Josephine Baker; Lorelei (1974), with costumes by Bob Mackie and Ray Aghayan, and with actor Lee Roy Reams; London Assurance (1974-75), with costume design by David Walker and Michael Stennett, and with actor Roger Rees; Goodtime Charley (1975), with scenic design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and with actor Joel Grey; Toller Cranston’s “The Ice Show” (1977), with costume design by Miles White; The Grand Tour (1979) by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and with actor Joel Grey; 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.

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