Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Venue: Stephen Sondheim Theatre Ships In the 2011 Broadway Revival of 'Anything Goes'

(Above images credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
The Stephen Sondheim Theatre completed in 2009 is the first newly-built Broadway theatre since the Marquis Theatre opened in 1986. Technically what is contructed behind the facade is all new but the classic facade is all that remains of the former Henry Miller's Theatre which opened in 1918.

The Henry Miller's Theatre (named for an actor-producer who originally operated the venue) was largely lost as a Broadway house until 1998 when the Roundabout Theatre Company returned it to legitimate use with a revival of 'Cabaret' starring Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming. After 'Cabaret' changed venues, the unusual musical 'Urinetown' about a town which charges its residents to pee opened at the Henry Miller's in 2001 and played until 2004 when it was forced to close to make way for construction a 57-story office tower. I recall visiting the theatre in 2003 to see a matinee of 'Urinetown' and remembered beams of wood creating a maze in the lobby leading to the orchestra seats. The venue was definitely in need of repair.

Current tenant at the Stephen
Sondheim Theatre
(image credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
The facade of the Henry Miller, landmarked by the city, was preserved and restored and a completely new auditorium constructed behind it albeit underground making it one of only two subterranean Broadway theatres (the other being the Circle in the Square). The new theatre opened in September 2009 with a poorly reviewed revival of 'Bye Bye Birdie' starring John Stamos and Gina Gershon. In March 2010, the theatre was renamed the Stephen Sondheim after the acclaimed composer and lyricist. A live production of 'The Pee-Wee Herman Show' was the first show to play the renamed venue.

The theatre which patrons visit today seats 1,055 and includes a women's restroom with 22 stalls. It must be an ironic scene each night as a line snakes out of the men's restroom where there is none at the women's. Remnants of the original theater are found throughout which include fire exit doors located above the balcony, plaster friezes and a Henry Miller's Theatre sign. Theatergoers will find the venue modern and comfortable to enjoy a night out at Broadway show.

The Stephen Sondheim Theatre is operated (in a 20-year lease) by the Roundabout Theatre Company making it the third for the non-profit on Broadway. The Roundabout's other Broadway venues are the American Airlines Theatre and Studio 54. The Stephen Sondheim currently houses the 2011 revival of 'Anything Goes' starring Sutton Foster and Joel Grey.

The 1,055 seat auditorium.
The original theatre's fire exit doors located above the balcony.
A 1950's sign with the theatre's former name.
The sleek, new modern lobby spaces.
(above images: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
Auditorium view from stage, plaster frieze decorating interior,
replication of Henry Miller's Theater's lobby.
Orchestra lobby, bar, one of two staircases leads to orchestra seats.
(above images: Tishman Construction)


Dave Zanko said...

The opening paragraph contains a notable error. The Sondheim wasn't the first new theatre since the Marquis, as the Lyric (née Foxwoods, Hilton and Ford Center) was opened in 1998, newly built on the footprint of the previous Lyric and Apollo theatres (not to be confused with the famous Apollo in Harlem).

The Hopeful Traveler said...

Thank you for the information. The post should have also included the Biltmore which was recommissioned as a Broadway Theatre in 2001 and operated by the Manhattan Theatre Club.

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