overview

Opened as the Erlanger Theater in 1927 and renamed the St. James Theater in 1932, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Jerome Robbins, Florence Klotz, Oliver Smith, Cole Porter, Arthur Laurents, Nathan Lane, Laurence Olivier, Irene Sharaff, and Katharine Hepburn, among others.

Three hugely successful musicals at the St. James with LGBT associations were Oklahoma! (1948), The King and I (1951-54), and Hello, Dolly! (1964-70).

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

History

Erlanger Theater
This venue opened as the Erlanger Theater in 1927. One LGBT- associated play here was Murray Anderson’s Almanac (1929) by Noel Coward and others, and with actor Jack Cole.

St. James Theater
The name was changed in 1932 to the St. James Theater. There were three enormous LGBT-associated hits here:

 

Other big hits at the St. James were:

  • Panama Hattie (1941), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter (opened at the 46th Street Theater)
  • Flower Drum Song (1958-60), with scenic production by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Barnum (1980) by Mark Bramble, with lyrics by Michael Stewart
  • My One and Only (1983-85), with staging and choreography by Tommy Tune and Thommie Walsh (Best Choreography Tony Award), with Tune (Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award)
  • Gypsy (revival, 1989-91) by Arthur Laurents, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Best Revival Tony Award)
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (revival, 1996-98), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and with actor Nathan Lane (Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award)

 

Productions by LGBT creators at the St. James also included:

  • Thumbs Up! (1934-35 ), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois and others
  • Hamlet (revival, 1936-37), staged by Guthrie McClintic, with actors John GielgudJudith Anderson, and Harry Andrews (opened at the Empire Theater)
  • Pal Joey (1941), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and with actor Van Johnson (opened at the Barrymore Theater)
  • Sunny River (1941-42), with costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Peter Pan (1950), with music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein, and with actors Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff (opened at the Imperial Theater)
  • Becket (1960), with scenic design by Oliver Smith (Best Scenic Design Tony Award), and with actor Laurence Olivier
  • Do Re Mi (1960-61), with costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Subways Are for Sleeping (1961-62), with costume design by Freddy Wittop
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (revival, 1973) by Tennessee Williams
  • My Fair Lady (revival, 1976), with production design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Cecil Beaton, with W. Robert LaVine as special costume assistant, and also with George Rose (Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award)
  • On the Twentieth Century (1978-79), with costume design by Florence Klotz
  • The 1940’s Radio Hour (1979-80), with costume design by William Ivey Long
  • Filumena (1980), a production by Franco Zeffirelli, directed by Laurence Olivier
  • Jerry’s Girls (1985-86), with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and costume design by Florence Klotz
  • High Society (1998), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter
  • The Civil War (1999), with costume design by William Ivey Long
  • Swing! (1999-2001), with costume design by William Ivey Long

 

LGBT performers at the St. James included:

 

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (June 2019, with multiple additions).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Warren & Wetmore
  • Year Built: 1926-27

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. Erlanger Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

  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.

Do you have more information about this site?

This project is enriched by your participation! Do you have your own images of this site? Or a story to share? Would you like to suggest a different historic site?

Curated Themes

43 Sites

Broadway Theater District

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

138-146 West 48th Street
James Earl Jones Theater (originally, Cort Theater)
Performance Venues
243 West 47th Street
Ethel Barrymore Theater
Performance Venues
214 West 42nd Street
New Amsterdam Theater
Performance Venues