overview

Opened in 1913, the Shubert Theater has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Cole Porter, Michael Bennett, Fred Ebb, Joel Grey, Katharine Hepburn, Irene Sharaff, Jerome Robbins, Benjamin Britten, Raoul Pene Du Bois, Katharine Cornell, and Ethel Waters, among others.

The Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line (1975-90) had its Broadway premiere here and was directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett.

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

History

The Shubert Theater is one of the Broadway theaters that has had the highest number of productions with LGBT associations, and a large number of these were hit plays. Enormous LGBT-associated hits here have been Kiss Me, Kate (1950-51, opened at the New Century Theater), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter (Best Musical and Best Composer and Lyricist Tony Awards), and with actor Harold LangPromises, Promises (1968-72), choreographed by Michael Bennett and Bob Avian; A Chorus Line (1975-90, opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater) by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical Tony Awards), directed by Michael Bennett (Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award), with lyrics by Edward Kleban (Best Original Score Tony Award), choreographed by Bennett and Bob Avian (Best Choreography Tony Award), and with Sammy Williams (Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony Award), who portrayed an openly gay Puerto Rican dancer; Crazy for You (1994-96), with costume design by William Ivey Long (Best Costume Design Tony Award); and Chicago (revival, 1997-2003, opened at the Richard Rodgers Theater – 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, costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Joel Grey.

Other big LGBT-associated hits at the Shubert have included The Philadelphia Story (1939-40) with Katharine HepburnBy Jupiter (1942-43) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, with lyrics by Hart, and costume design by Irene SharaffBloomer Girl (1944-46), with costume design by Miles White, and with dancer James MitchellHigh Button Shoes (1947-48, opened at the New Century Theater), choreographed by Jerome Robbins (Choreographer Tony Award), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Miles WhiteCan-Can (1953-55), with music and lyrics by Cole PorterWill Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1956, opened at the Belasco Theater), with scenic design by Oliver SmithBells Are Ringing (1956-58), choreographed by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, and with Judy Holliday (Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award); Take Me Along (1959-60), with production design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Miles White, and with actor Walter PidgeonBye Bye Birdie (1961, opened at the Martin Beck Theater) by Michael Stewart (Best Musical Tony Award), with costume design by Miles White, and with actors Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson ReillyOliver (1964, opened at the Imperial Theater), with book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart (Best Composer and Lyricist Tony Award); A Little Night Music (1973) by Hugh Wheeler (Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical Tony Awards), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Best Original Score Tony Award), and costume design by Florence Klotz (Best Costume Design Tony Award); and The Sunshine Boys (1973-74, opened at the Broadhurst Theater), with costume design by Albert Wolsky.

Shows by LGBT creators at the Shubert have also included Love o’Mike (1917), produced by Elisabeth Marbury and Lee Shubert, and with actor Clifton WebbA Lonely Romeo (1919), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart and Robert B. Smith; Greenwich Village Follies of 1924 (1924-25), with music by Cole Porter, and lyrics by Porter and others;  Padlocks of 1927, with costume design by Orry-Kelly and others; The Furies (1928) by Zoe Akins, directed by George Cukor, and with actor Laurette TaylorA Night in Venice (1929), with costume design by Erte, George Barbier, and Ernest Schrapps; The Street Singer (1929-30), a Busby Berkeley musical with costume design by Orry-Kelly and George Barbier, and with actor Cesar RomeroBitter Sweet (1930, opened at the Ziegfeld Theater), with book, music, lyrics, and staging by Noel CowardSymphony in Two Flats (1930) by and with Ivor NovelloGay Divorce (1933, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater), with music and lyrics by Cole PorterBabes in Arms (1937) and I Married an Angel (1938-39) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, with lyrics by Hart, the latter with actor Charles WaltersHigher and Higher (1940) and Pal Joey (1941, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, the latter with actor Van JohnsonHold On to Your Hats (1940-41), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du BoisLiberty Jones (1941), with music and lyrics by Paul Bowles, and scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du BoisThey Walk Alone (1941), with music by Benjamin Britten, and with actor Elsa LanchesterThe Doctor’s Dilemma (revival, 1941) and Candida (revival, 1942), staged by Guthrie McClintic, and with actor Katharine CornellMy Romance (1948-49), staged by and book and lyrics by Rowland LeighLend Me An Ear (1949, opened at the National Theater), with scenic, costume and lighting design by Raoul Pene Du BoisPaint Your Wagon (1951-52), The Gay Life (1961-62), and Bajour (1964-65), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, the first with actor James Mitchell, and the latter with costume design by Freddy WittopThe Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1965), with costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Cyril RitchardIvanov (revival, 1966), directed by and with John Gielgud, with scenic and costume design by Rouben Ter-ArutunianSeascape (1975) by Edward Albee (Pulitzer Prize for Drama); The Constant Wife (revival, 1975) by W. Somerset Maugham; and Big (1996), with costume design by William Ivey Long.

LGBT performers at the Shubert have included Jeanne Eagels in The Great Pursuit (1916); Eva Le Gallienne in Mr. Lazarus (1916); the vaudeville team Bert Savoy & Jay Brennan in Greenwich Village Follies of 1920 (1920-21, opened at the Greenwich Theater) and Greenwich Village Follies of 1922Emlyn Williams in And So to Bed (1927-28); Patsy Kelly in Harry Delmar’s Revels (1927-28); Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Idiot’s Delight (1936), Amphitryon 38 (1937-38), The Seagull (revival, 1938), and I Know My Love (1949-50); Ethel Waters in Laugh Time (1943); Katharine HepburnCyril Ritchard, and Robert Helpmann in The Millionairess (revival, 1952-53); and Harold Lang in I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962).

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Henry B. Herts
  • 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. Shubert Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

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