overview

Opened as the Chanin’s 46th Street Theater in 1924 and renamed the 46th Street Theater in 1932 and the Richard Rodgers Theater in 1990, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Charles Nelson Reilly, Fred Ebb, Cole Porter, Mary Martin, Patsy Kelly, Marc Blitzstein, Irene Sharaff, Joel Grey, and Nathan Lane, among others.

From 1997-2003, the Tony Award-winning revival of Chicago ran here and included the LGBT contributions of Fred Ebb, John Kander, John Lee Beatty, William Ivey Long, and Joel Grey.

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

History

46th Street Theater
Originally called Chanin’s 46th Street Theater, it became the 46th Street Theater in 1932. The biggest theater hits with LGBT associations at the 46th Street Theater were How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961-65) with Charles Nelson Reilly (Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony Award); Raisin (1973-74), a musical based on the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Best Musical Tony Award); Chicago (1975-77) by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Ebb; The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1978-82), choreographed by Tommy Tune and Thommie Walsh; and Nine (1982-84), directed by Tommy Tune (Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award), with dances by Thommie Walsh, and costume design by William Ivey Long (Best Costume Design Tony Award).

Other big hits were Panama Hattie (1940-42), with lyrics and music by Cole Porterand scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du BoisSons o’Fun (1943), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene du Bois (opened at the Winter Garden Theater); Rosalinda (1943-44), with scenic design by Oliver Smith (opened at the 44th Street Theater); One Touch of Venus (1944-45), with costume design by Kermit Love and Paul Du Pont, with actor Mary Martin (opened at the Imperial Theater); I Do! I Do! (1966-68), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Mary Martin; and No, No, Nanette (1971-73), with production design by Raoul Pene du Bois (Best Costume Design Tony Award), with Patsy Kelly (Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony Award).

Productions by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers at the 46th Street Theater also included Earl Carroll’s Sketchbook (1930; opened at Earl Carroll Theater), with Patsy KellyAnything Goes (1935; opened at the Alvin Theater) and Du Barry Was a Lady (1939-40), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, the latter with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, and with actor Charles WaltersBehind Red Lights (1937) with Georgette HarveyBeat the Band (1942), with costume design by Freddy WittopDark of the Moon (1945) with actor Gar Moore; Regina (1949), written and composed by Marc Blitzstein; Ondine (1954), directed by Alfred Lunt (Best Director Tony Award), with music by Virgil ThomsonOn Your Toes (revival, 1954) by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and George Abbott, and with lyrics by Hart, scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Irene SharaffNew Girl in Town (1957-58), with production design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, with actor Thelma Ritter (Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award); Edwin Booth (1958), with costume design by Edith HeadAges of Man (1958-59), with John GielgudRedhead (1959-60), with production design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian (Best Costume Design Tony Award); Tenderloin (1960-61), with scenic and costume design by Cecil Beaton, and with actor Maurice Evans and dancer Wakefield PooleDonnybrook! (1961), directed and choreographed by Jack Cole, and with scenic and costume design by Rouben Ter-ArutunianDo I Hear a Waltz? (1965) by Arthur Laurents, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and scenic and costume design by Beni MontresorThe Women (revival, 1973), with scenic design by Oliver SmithPrivate Lives (revival, 1975) by Noel Coward; and Checkmates (1988) with Paul Winfield.

Richard Rodgers Theater
In 1990, it was renamed the Richard Rodgers Theater. An enormous hit was the revival of Chicago (1997-2003 – Best Revival of a Musical Tony Award) by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Ebb, scenic design by John Lee Beatty, and costume design by William Ivey Long, with actor Joel Grey. Other shows here with LGBT associations were Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993-94), with costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Nathan LaneSteel Pier (1997), with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, and costume design by William Ivey LongSide Show (1997-98), with music by Henry Krieger, and costume design by Gregg BarnesFootloose (1998-2000), a big hit, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty; and Seussical (2000-2001), by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, with music by Flaherty and costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Andrew Keenan-Bolger.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Herbert J. Krapp
  • Year Built: 1924

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. Forty-Sixth Street Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

  3. Internet Broadway Database.

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

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