Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

242 W. 45th Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

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The Royale Theatre was built by the Chanin Brothers alongside their Theatre Masque (now Golden Theatre) and opened on January 11, 1927 with the musical comedy “Piggy” (which was renamed during the run “I Told You So”) and closed quickly. Designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp in an Adamesque/Spanish style the side-wall arches of the auditorium contain murals by artist Willy Pogany. Seating was originally provided for 1,172 in orchestra and balcony levels, and four boxes each side of the proscenium. The first smash hit for the theatre began on January 31, 1928 when “Diamond Lil” starring Mae West commenced a 323 performance run.

When producer John Golden lost his theatre on W. 54th Street, he took out a lease on the Royale Theatre and it was renamed John Golden Theatre. In 1937 it was taken over by the Shubert Brothers and leased to CBS as a radio theatre. (John Golden moved into the Theatre Masque next door and it was renamed John Golden Theatre). In 1940, CBS relinqushed its lease and it was renamed Royale Theatre again.

The revue “New Faces of 1952” introduced audiences to Eartha Kitt, Carol Lawrence and Paul Lynde and opened on May 16, 1952 (365 performances). On February 8, 1954 the play “The Immoralist” opened starring Geraldine Page, Louis Jordan & James Dean. This was follwed by the musical “The Boy Friend” which introduced Julie Andrews to American audiences. From February 12, 1958, Lawrence Olivier starred in “The Entertainer” which recieved bad critical reviews and only ran for 96 performances.

On 15th May 1958, the New York premiere of the film musical “Gigi” starring Leslie Caron was held at the Royale Theatre and it played for a lengthy 6-months roadshow run.

Back to live theatre use from November 11, 1958 was the revue “La Plum de Ma Tant” (835 performances). Bette Davis appeared in “Night of the Iguana” from December 28, 1961 (316 performances). Jack Albertson & Martin Sheen were a hit in “The Subject Was Roses” from May 25, 1965 (832 performances). Followed from December 8, 1965 with Lauren Bacall in “Cactus Flower” (1,234 performances). A move-over from the Broadhurst Theatre of the musical “Grease” in 1972 played at the Royale Theatre for the next eight years (3,388 performances).

This was followed by a series of British productions: Tom Conti in “Who’s Life Is It Anyway?” from April 1979, “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine” starring Tommy Tune from May 1980, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (1982) was followed by another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Song and Dance” in September 1985. On May 2, 1988 David Mamet’s play “Speed the Plow” starred Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver and making her Broadway debut Madonna. “Lend Me a Tenner” played in 1989.

On May 9, 2005, the Royale Theatre was renamed the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre after long-time Shubert Organisation President.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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