The New Amsterdam Theatre is a Broadway theater located at 214 West 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in the Theater District of Manhattan, New York City, off of Times Square. It was built in 1902–1903 and was designed by the architecture firm of Herts & Tallant; The Roof Garden, where more risqué productions were presented, and which is no longer extant, was added in 1904, designed by the same firm.
For many years the theatre was the home of the Ziegfeld Follies, George White's Scandals and Eva LeGallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre. It was used as a movie theatre beginning in 1937, closed in 1985, and was leased by the Walt Disney Corporation and renovated by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer in 1995–97 to be the flagship for Disney Theatrical Productions presentations on Broadway.
Both the Beaux-Arts exterior and the Art Nouveau interior of the building are New York City landmarks, having been designated in 1979. In addition, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Along with the Lyceum Theatre, also built in 1903, the New Amsterdam is the oldest surviving Broadway venue.
Construction and original run
The Beaux-Arts facade of the New Amsterdam is a narrow slice which leads to the theatre's interior, the first concrete example of architectural Art Nouveau in New York, by the partnership of impresarios A.L. Erlanger and Marcus Klaw, and was designed by architects Herts & Tallant. Decorating was carried out by an extensive team of painters and sculptors that included George Gray Barnard, Robert Blum, the brothers Neumark, George Daniel M. Peixotto, Roland Hinton Perry and Albert G. Wenzel. At the time of construction, it was the largest theatre in New York, with a seating capacity of 1,702.
The theatre opened in November 1903 with a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. For many years, it hosted the Ziegfeld Follies, showcasing such talents as Fanny Brice, Eaton siblings and silent film star Olive Thomas whose ghost supposedly haunts the theatre.
A racier sister show of the Follies, the Midnight Frolics, played in the New Amsterdam's Roof Garden theatre. The New Amsterdam was the scene of Marilyn Miller's greatest triumphs in the musicals Sally (1920) and Sunny, which opened in September 1925 co-starring Clifton Webb as Harold Wendell-Wendell and ran for three seasons. But the theatre also hosted serious productions, and in June 1927 Basil Rathbone appeared there as Cassius in Julius Caesar.
The Great Depression did great damage to the live theatre business, and in 1936 the New Amsterdam closed. It reopened on a limited basis in 1937 but was soon converted to a movie theatre. The Nederlander Organization purchased the landmark property in 1982, but it would not begin rehabilitation for another eight years. In 1990, after a court battle, the State and City of New York assumed ownership of the New Amsterdam and many other theatres on 42nd Street. Disney Theatrical Productions signed a 99-year lease for the property in 1993. The theatre, which had recently been used as a filming location for the movie Vanya on 42nd Street, was dilapidated; it would take several years, and millions of dollars, to restore it to its original usage and grandeur. The roof garden remained closed when it was discovered that it could not meet modern building codes.
The New Amsterdam was officially reopened on April 2, 1997. In November 1997, after the premiere of the film Hercules and a limited engagement of a concert version of King David, Disney's stage version of The Lion King opened. On June 4, 2006, The Lion King closed in The New Amsterdam Theatre, moving two blocks uptown to the Minskoff Theatre on June 13, 2006. Mary Poppins began previews at the New Amsterdam Theatre on October 16, 2006 and opened on November 16, 2006, where it continued to run until March 3, 2013. The theatre was renovated to make way for Disney's Aladdin, which begain previews on February 26, 2014 and opened on March 20 of that same year.
The New Amsterdam has also hosted events benefitting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, including the annual Easter Bonnet Competition. In recent years, the benefit's honored guest has been centenarian Doris Eaton Travis, who originally performed on the New Amsterdam stage in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919.
- Official website
- Disney On Broadway Podcast: Olive Thomas: Disney's Resident Ghost
- Broadway Theatre Guide with full show details for the New Amsterdam Theatre
- Chronology at the New 42nd Street site
- A collection of New Amsterdam memorabilia
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