New York City is known for many things whether it be food, culture, or a skyline filled with tall glass buildings. One of the staples, however, of New York City is the abundance of theaters that offer shows for audiences to take in.
Helen Hayes Theatre
In 1912, this theater began its life as the Little Theater before being renamed in 1983. Helen Hayes is generally considered to be the “First Lady” of American theater who’s remarkable career earned her Tony, Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy awards. The Hayes Theater started out with a small number of seats, only 299, and went through a renovation in 1920 that added a balcony for additional seating. Even with the renovation, it still remains the smallest theater on Broadway bosting just 599 seats. In a nod to out-of-town tryouts for incoming Broadway musicals, the Hayes was designed in the colonial style. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the theater was used as a TV studio with famous names like Dick Clark, Merv Griffin, and David Frost broadcasting their talks shows from there.
The Booth Theater was designed as a pair with the famous Shubert Theater. Both theaters have Venetian-Renaissance facades. The Booth opened in 1913 in honor of 19th century actor Edwin Booth, who was the brother of famed Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Generally, more intimate plays are run at the Booth but, occasionally, small-scale musicals such as Sunday in the Park with George and Next to Normal have constituted long runs.
Winter Garden Theatre
This theater has gone through multiple renovations and reconfigurations many times throughout its history. It was built in 1896 to be the American Horse Exchange but was purchased by the Shuberts in 1911 and redesigned as a theater that added a garden motif. The first production, La Belle Parre, gave way to the rising star of Al Jolson. When the hit sensation Cats was brought to the the theater in 1982, it was redesigned to accommodate for the junkyard setting of the show. Once closed, the theater was again redesigned and restored to the elegance of the 1920s. Boasting 1,526 seats, the Winter Garden generally houses large-scale musicals like West Side Story, Mame, and Mamma Mia!
When visiting New York City, make sure to stop by these famous theaters to get a glimpse of history and what renovation and redesign can do to transform a play or musical into an experience for its audiences.