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THE RICHARD RODGERS THEATRE

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Through the efforts of producer Alexander H. Cohen and the Nederlander Organization, the former 46th Street Theatre, which opened in 1924, was renamed the Richard Rodgers in 1990, in honor of the late composer.

Its most recent productions have been Private Lives; Neil Simon’s 45 Seconds From Broadway; Seussical; Footloose; Chicago; How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Laughter on the 23rd Floor; Fool Moon, starring Bill Irwin and David Shiner; Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize play Lost in Yonkers; Dustin Hoffman in The Merchant of Venice; James Earl Jones in the Pulitzer Prize play Fences by August Wilson; the multi-Tony Award-winning musical Nine starring Raul Julia.

The 1970’s started with an enormous hit: the revival of No, No, Nanette, starring Ruby Keeler with Patsy Kelly (Tony Award), Helen Gallagher (Tony Award), Bobby Van and Jack Gilford; followed by Raisin, a musical version of the play A Raisin in the Sun, which won a Tony Award for actress Virginia Capers; Maggie Smith in a revival of Coward’s Private Lives; Chicago, the Kander/Ebb/Fosse musical, starring Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach; Mary Martin and Anthony Quayle in Do You Turn Somersaults?; the musical Working; and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1,639 performances).

From 1955 to 1960 this could have been renamed the Gwen Verdon Theatre. The great singer/dancer reigned here by winning Tony Awards in three successive musicals—Damn Yankees, New Girl in Town and Redhead. Other 1960’s shows included Frank Loesser’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying, which also won Tonys for Robert Morse and Charles Nelson Reilly; the Richard Rodgers/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents musical Do I Hear a Waltz?; Mary Martin and Robert Preston in I Do! I Do!; and the Tony Award-winning musical 1776 (1,217 performances).

The 1950’s began with Nanette Fabray, Pearl Bailey and Georges Guetary in Arms and the Girl, a musicalized version of The Pursuit of Happiness with a score by Morton Gould and Dorothy Fields. Next came Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls, which won Tony Awards for Loesser, Joe Swerling and Abe Burrows, Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin, and Robert Alda and Isabel Bigley (1,194 performances). In 1954 the luminous Audrey Hepburn won a Tony Award for her enchanting performance in Ondine, which also won Tonys for Alfred Lunt (direction), Peter Larkin (sets) and Richard Whorf (costumes). A revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes starred Zorina, Bobby Van and Elaine Stritch; and Patty McCormack terrified audiences in Maxwell Anderson’s The Bad Seed, starring Nancy Kelly as her horrified mother.

The 1940’s saw Ethel Merman’s name go up alone over the title Panama Hattie for the first time, and the Cole Porter show with James Dunn, Betty Hutton and Arthur Treacher ran for 501 performances. In the chorus were June Allyson, Lucille Bremer, Vera Ellen, Betsy Blair, Constance Dowling and Doris Dowling! Dark of the Moon and Finian’s Rainbow were enormous hits, as were Mary Martin in One Touch of Venus and Eddie Foy, Jr. in The Red Mill. Other vintage hits: Good News (1927), Hellzapoppin (1938) and DuBarry Was a Lady (1939).

Space limitations prevent us from mentioning all the productions which have played this theatre.

Written by Louis Botto