The Jacobs Theatre at 242 West Forty-fifth Street was one of six legitimate theatres built by the Chanin Brothers in the 1920s. Over the years it bore the names John Golden Theatre and Royale Theatre (twice) but was rechristened after the longtime president of the Schubert Organization in 2005.
In describing the new house, The New York Times reported that it was “comfortable, with plenty of leg room around the seats.” The theatre was done in modern Spanish style and had two murals, collectively titled Lovers of Spain, by Willy Pogany; the general color scheme was cardinal red, orange, and gold. Not surprisingly, once again the architect was the busy Herbert J. Krapp.
With a seating capacity of a little over 1,000, the theatre opened on January 11, 1927, as the Royale. The inaugural offering was a musical comedy called Piggy. The popular comic Sam Bernard played a monocled Englishman whose son (Paul Frawley) falls in love with an American girl. Brooks Atkinson in The Times called it an “average musical comedy” and highly praised the dancing of Goodee Montgomery, whom he identified as the daughter of the late and still lamented Dave Montgomery of the famed Montgomery and Stone team. The following day, The Times carried a correction. Miss Goodee was Montgomery’s niece. Shortly after this show opened, the producer changed its title (a very rare practice in the theatre) to I Told You So, and it ran for 79 performances.
The Royale’s next musical, Judy, starred the bubbly Queenie Smith and the romantic Charles Purcell. One of the songs was titled “When Gentlemen Grew Whiskers and Ladies Grew Old.” Judy pleased the nostalgia crowd for 104 performances.
A musical version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, retitled Oh, Earnest!, did not last long, but a black revue called Rang Tang fared better in 1927, running for 119 performances. The dancing in this show was highly praised by the critics. The Times referred to the revue as “a blackamoor folderol.”
Winthrop Ames’s Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company moved into the Royale in September 1927 and performed The Mikado, Iolanthe, and The Pirates of Penzance for a very successful three months. A popular (but aging) entertainer named Mitzi next appeared in The Madcap, a very silly musical about an older woman (Mitzi) who pretends to be much younger in order to win rich Lord Clarence Steeple (Sydney Greenstreet). Arthur Treacher was also in this nonsense, which ran for 103 performances.
After its yearlong musicals-only diet, the Royale played its first straight show in 1928. It was Sh! The Octopus, described by an overzealous press agent as a “sneaky, snaky, slimy mystery.” The murderous doings took place in a lighthouse, and since there is little prospect that this show will be revived (though it was filmed), it can be revealed that the plot turned out to be nothing but a dream.
The Royale had its first bona fide hit on April 9, 1928, when Mae West starred in her own play, Diamond Lil, a melodrama set in the 1890's Bowery. This devil’s brew bubbled for 323 performances. The year 1929 ended at the Royale with an item called Woof Woof, a musical that featured not one, but two live whippet races onstage. They ran only 46 times.
The Second Little Show, a successor to the highly successful revue The Little Show, opened at the Royale on September 2, 1930, but did not measure up to the first edition. Although the score was by the illustrious Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, it was a song by Herman Hupfeld that swept the nation — “Sing Something Simple.” The show managed only 63 performances. A popular farce called Stepping Sisters played two engagements at this theatre in 1930-31. Mae West returned to the Royale in 1931 with her latest play, The Constant Sinner, but it wasn’t sinful enough and ran for only 64 performances. West announced that she might do some matinees of Macbeth and play Lady Macbeth herself, but the project, unfortunately, never got off the ground. Instead, Fritz Leiber and his Chicago Civic Shakespeare Society arrived in The Merchant of Venice (1931). His company included Helen Menken, Tyrone Power (Sr.), William Faversham, Pedro De Cordoba, Viola Roache, and Whitford Kane.
Rachel Crothers had a hit play, When Ladies Meet, which opened at the Royale on October 6, 1932, starring Frieda Inescort, Walter Abel, Spring Byington, and Selena Royle.
The Theatre Guild production of Maxwell Anderson’s exposé of corruption in the nation’s capital, Both Your Houses, was brilliantly acted by Shepperd Strudwick, Morris Carnovsky, Walter C. Kelly, Mary Philips, J. Edward Bromberg, and others, but it managed to play for only 72 performances. A comedy called Every Thursday, starring Queenie Smith, opened in May of 1934, and it was the last play at the Royale before the theatre changed its name for the first time.
John Golden, the famous theatrical producer, owned the John Golden Theatre on West Fifty-eighth Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, but he lost it in 1933. In 1934 he leased the Royale and renamed it the Golden Theatre. The first production under the new management was Norman Krasna’s comedy Small Miracle, which opened on September 26, 1934. Directed by George Abbott, this unusual play took place in a theatre lobby and chronicled the lives of the theatre’s patrons who congregated there. The large cast included Ilka Chase, Joseph Spurin-Calleia, Myron McCormick, and Elspeth Eric. It prospered for 118 performances.
In November 1934, the Abbey Theatre Players from Dublin opened at the Golden in a repertory of plays that changed weekly. Headed by Barry Fitzgerald, the company presented such Irish classics as The Plough and the Stars, The Far-off Hills, The Shadow of the Glen, The Playboy of the Western World, and Drama at Inish. On Christmas Eve the Theatre Guild presented one of S. N. Behrman’s most thoughtful drawing-room comedies, Rain from Heaven, with Jane Cowl, John Halliday, Lily Cahill, Ben Smith, and Thurston Hall. Contemporary issues — fascism, Nazism, communism, Lindbergh hero worship — were brilliantly discussed by intellectuals of opposing viewpoints during a country weekend in England.
The remainder of 1935 was devoted to a comedy, The Bishop Misbehaves, starring Walter Connolly, which moved here from the Cort Theatre, and an acerbic play, A Touch of Brimstone, with Roland Young as a very nasty theatrical producer who took perverse delight in mistreating people. (Shades of Jed Harris?)
During 1936 the Golden Theatre had a series of short-run shows. Some of the more interesting ones were the return of 80-year-old actor William Gillette, after four years of retirement, in a revival of Three Wise Fools, with Charles Coburn; Nazimova in Ghosts, which returned after a tour and played for a month at a $1.65 top (reasonable even for that time); and Double Dummy, a “farce-satire” about contract bridge, with Martha Sleeper, Dudley Clements, and John McGovern.
From 1937 until 1940 the Golden ceased functioning as a legitimate playhouse. It became the CBS Radio Theatre. Undaunted, producer John Golden leased the Masque Theatre next door and rechristened it the John Golden Theatre. It has remained so ever since.
In October 1940 the former Golden Theatre was taken over by the Magoro Operating Corporation, which restored this theatre’s original name: the Royale. To review: first, this theatre was the Royale, then it became the Golden, then the CBS Radio Theatre, then the Royale again, and, years later, the Jacobs.
The hit Cole Porter musical DuBarry Was a Lady moved from the 46th Street Theatre to the Royale on October 21, 1940, minus one of its stars — Ethel Merman — who was succeeded by Gypsy Rose Lee. Bert Lahr was still the star of the show. It stayed for two months. This was followed by Elmer Rice’s Flight to the West (1940), from the Guild Theatre, and Ethel Barrymore in her hit The Corn Is Green (1940), which transferred from the National Theatre. Paul Muni returned in a revival of Elmer Rice’s Counsellor-at-Law (1942), one of his earlier hits. It ran for 258 performances. The daffy ZaSu Pitts arrived in a melodramatic farce, Ramshackle Inn (1944), and her Hollywood fans supported this ramshackle play for 216 performances.
The critics scorned School for Brides, a Chicago hit that came east with Roscoe Karns and a bevy of beauties in the summer of 1944, but the public bought it for 375 performances. Michael Todd’s spectacular production of Catherine Was Great, with the mistress of triple entendre, Mae West, moved here from the Shubert and pulverized the local yokels for three more months. Another sex comedy that was a smash in Chicago — Good Night, Ladies (1945) — came east and was assassinated by the New York drama critics. The public listened to the scribes this time and the farce left after 78 performances. A stage adaptation of Lillian Smith’s best-seller Strange Fruit expired after 60 performances in 1945.
The distinguished veteran producer Arthur Hopkins presented Louis Calhern as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Dorothy Gish as his loving wife in Emmet Lavery’s The Magnificent Yankee in January 1946, and it ran a respectable 160 performances. Tennessee Williams’s first Broadway play, The Glass Menagerie, with triumphant performances by the great Laurette Taylor, Eddie Dowling, Julie Haydon, and Anthony Ross, moved here from the Playhouse in 1946. This was followed by a moderately successful revival of The Front Page, with Lew Parker and Arnold Moss. The radiant Ina Claire returned to the stage in George Kelly’s amusing comedy The Fatal Weakness, about a romantic woman (Claire) who loves to attend weddings, even if the groom happens to be a former husband of hers.
A stylish revival of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest starred John Gielgud (who also staged it), Margaret Rutherford, and Robert Flemyng in 1947 and achieved a run of 81 performances. Gielgud and Flemyng returned to the Royale in May in a revival of William Congreve’s artificial bore Love for Love, which left town after 48 showings.
In December 1947 Judith Anderson returned from a triumphant tour in Medea and continued to kill her helpless babes for five more months. Moss Hart’s acidulous comedy about theatre folks trying out a show in Boston, Light Up the Sky, arrived in November 1948 and provoked hilarity for 214 performances. Sam Levene played a vulgar producer, Audrey Christie acted his loudmouth wife, and Broadway insisted that the characters were modeled after Billy Rose and his then wife, Olympic swimmer Eleanor Holm.
Alfred de Liagre’s memorable production of The Madwoman of Chaillot moved here from the Belasco in 1949 and stayed for four months. Dance Me a Song, an intimate revue, was not a hit, but it served to introduce the delightful comic Wally Cox, who wrote his own very funny monologues. This was followed by a revival of Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, with Maurice Evans, Dennis King, Victor Jory, and Marsha Hunt, staged by Margaret Webster for 111 performances. Next came a London hit, Christopher Fry’s verse play The Lady’s Not for Burning, starring John Gielgud (who also directed), Richard Burton, and Pamela Brown, which made pleasant rhymes for 151 performances. Sidney Kingsley’s powerful dramatization of Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon moved here from the Alvin and played for three more months in 1951.
Borscht Capades, described as an “English Yiddish revue,” pleased the critics and ran for 90 performances. Another revue — Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1952, which opened here on May 16, 1952 — turned out to be the best show of this series and one of the finest revues in Broadway history. Staged by the great revue director John Murray Anderson, the cast included such bright talents as Paul Lynde, Ronny Graham, June Carroll, Eartha Kitt, Robert Clary, Alice Ghostley, Carol Lawrence, and many others. The smash ran for 365 performances and was one of the few Broadway revues that was filmed by Hollywood.
Billy Rose presented a stage adaptation of André Gide’s novel The Immoralist, with Geraldine Page as a woman who has married a homosexual, played by Louis Jordan. In the cast was the young James Dean as a North African homosexual who attempts to lure the husband to the local date grove. The daring play ran for 104 performances in 1954.
A British musical, The Boy Friend, by Sandy Wilson, opened at the Royale on September 30, 1954, and captivated Manhattan. This diverting parody of 1920's musicals introduced Julie Andrews to Broadway, and she was a delight. The spoof ran for 485 performances. This theatre had another smash hit in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, which opened on December 5, 1955. The play had a very curious history. Wilder first wrote it as The Merchant of Yonkers, but it flopped on Broadway in 1938, despite direction by the famed Max Reinhardt and Jane Cowl and Percy Waram in the leading roles. But this raucous version —s taged by Tyrone Guthrie and vividly performed by Ruth Gordon, Loring Smith, Robert Morse, Eileen Herlie, and Arthur Hill —r ang the cash register for 486 performances. Guthrie won a Tony Award for his galvanic staging of this comedy, which was later adapted as the celebrated musical Hello, Dolly!
The Tunnel of Love, a minor comedy by Joseph Fields and Peter DeVries, managed to run for 417 performances in 1957, probably because of the popularity of its leading man, Tom Ewell. Nancy Olson, Darren McGavin, and Elizabeth Wilson were also in this comedy about a childless suburban couple who wish to adopt a baby.
Laurence Olivier gave a memorable performance as a seedy vaudeville actor in John Osborne’s rather boring play The Entertainer (1958), an allegory of modern England. The cast included Olivier’s wife, Joan Plowright; Brenda de Banzie; Peter Donat; and Jeri Archer, who played Britannia as a topless statue who did not move. David Merrick, the producer of this British play, did not allow Archer to take a curtain call, stating that she would be too distracting to the audience.
The 1950s came to a dazzling close at this theatre with the lunatic French revue La Plume de Ma Tante, which opened on November 11, 1958, and stayed for 835 performances. Robert Dhery conceived, wrote, and starred in this uproarious vaudeville explosion, and the entire cast won a Special Tony Award for “contribution to the theatre.”
Highlights of the 1960s at this theatre included Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn in Jean Anouilh’s Becket (1960), which moved here from the St. James; From the Second City (1961), a hit Chicago revue with Alan Arkin, Barbara Harris, Paul Sand, and others; Tennessee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana (1961), starring Bette Davis, Patrick O’Neal, Alan Webb, and Margaret Leighton, who won a Tony Award for her luminous performance; and Charles Boyer in S. N. Behrman’s high comedy about an art dealer, Lord Pengo (1962), with Agnes Moorehead, Brian Bedford, and Henry Daniell.
Coral Browne and Keith Michell followed in Anouilh’s The Rehearsal (1963); Margaret Leighton, John Williams, Alan Webb, Peter Donat, and Douglas Watson in Enid Bagnold’s The Chinese Prime Minister (1964); Frank D. Gilroy’s The Subject Was Roses (1964), the Pulitzer Prize-winning play with Jack Albertson (who won a Tony Award for his performance), Irene Dailey, and Martin Sheen; Jason Robards in Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie (1964); and Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson, Robert Moore, and Brenda Vaccaro in Cactus Flower (1965), adapted by Abe Burrows from a French comedy. It ran for 1,234 performances.
The last hit of the 1960s at the Royale featured Donald Pleasence starring in Robert Shaw’s play The Man in the Glass Booth (1968), directed by Harold Pinter.
The 1970s brought Robert Marasco’s chilling Child’s Play (1970), with Ken Howard, Pat Hingle, Fritz Weaver, and David Rounds; Michael Weller’s fascinating portrait of the 1960's generation, Moonchildren (1972); and the record-breaking musical Grease, which moved to the Royale from the Broadhurst in 1972 and stayed until April 13, 1980. It became the longest-running musical in Broadway history, with 3,388 performances. (In September 1983 it was surpassed by A Chorus Line, and subsequently by others.)
An unusual event occurred at this theatre in February 1980. The British play Whose Life Is It Anyway?, in which Tom Conti had won a Tony Award for his performance as a man paralyzed from the neck down, was revised to make the hero a heroine. Mary Tyler Moore played the part in the revised version, which ran at the Royale for 96 performances. The experiment was considered a success.
Next came a screwball musical, A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, which moved here from the John Golden Theatre and won a Tony Award for Priscilla Lopez as Best Featured Actress in a Musical and another for co-choreographers Tommy Tune and Lopez’s fellow A Chorus Line alumnus Thommie Walsh. Actually a double bill, the show consisted of a first-act tribute to movie musicals and a second-act adaptation of a short Chekhov play as a vehicle for the Marx Brothers. The curious amalgam lasted 588 performances.
In December 1981 Duet for One, by Tom Kempinski, starred Anne Bancroft and Max von Sydow, and was directed by William Friedkin. The following month, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s first musical (though not their first on Broadway), moved here from the Entermedia Theatre and ran until September 1983. The following April The Human Comedy, a musical version of Saroyan’s novel of the same name (with music by Hair’s Galt MacDermot), had a brief run here. That fall Alec McCowen played a limited engagement in his one-man show Kipling. In 1985 Carroll O’Connor and Frances Sternhagen starred in Home Front for a brief run, followed by Rosemary Harris, Dana Ivey, George N. Martin, and Patrick McGoohan in the absorbing British play Pack of Lies, by Hugh Whitemore. Harris received a Drama Desk Award for her performance.
September 1985 brought Bernadette Peters in a Tony Award-winning performance in Song & Dance by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black, and Richard Maltby Jr. Among the excellent dancers in this British import were Charlotte and Christopher d’Amboise, Scott Wise, Victor Barbee, and Cynthia Onrubia. The offbeat musical, another double bill at the Royale, ran for 474 performances. Next came a revival of the famed 1926 play Broadway, by George Abbott and Philip Dunning. It coincided with Mr. Abbott’s 100th birthday, and he directed the production. Unfortunately, the critics found the play to be dated and it ran for only four performances.
It was succeeded at the Royale by Roza, a musical directed by Harold Prince and starring Georgia Brown, but this, too, had a short run: 12 performances. The story of a woman who cares for the unwanted children of Paris prostitutes was based on La Vie Devant Soi, by French author Romain Gary.
Serious Money, by Caryl Churchill, a devastating satire on the British stock market in the Thatcher era, moved here from the New York Shakespeare Festival in February 1988 but did not repeat its London success, lasting only 15 performances. May 3, 1988, brought the Broadway debut of rock star Madonna in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, also starring Ron Silver (who won a Tony Award for his dynamic performance) and Joe Mantegna. Most critics were not impressed with Madonna’s thespian abilities. Nevertheless, the drama about a pair of would-be Hollywood film producers ran for 278 performances.
In March 1989 Ken Ludwig’s hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor opened and played here for more than a year. The superlative cast included Philip Bosco (Tony Award), Victor Garber, Ron Holgate, Tovah Feldshuh, and Jane Connell, and the director was Jerry Zaks (Tony Award). Next Herb Gardner’s Conversations with My Father opened and won a Tony Award for Judd Hirsch. Also starring Tony Shalhoub and David Margulies, it ran here for a year.
The 1994 attraction was the acclaimed Royal National Theatre production of J. B. Priestley’s thriller An Inspector Calls, with dazzling direction by Stephen Daldry. It starred Rosemary Harris, Philip Bosco, and Kenneth Cranham and featured Jane Adams and Marcus D’Amico. Adams won a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Play. Stunning stage effects included a pounding rainstorm onstage in Act I and an Act II climax in which the house set turned inside-out, disgorging its contents. The show closed in 1995 after 454 performances.
In 1996 Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre presented a well-received revival of the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. This absorbing drama about the famed 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, charging an educator with teaching evolution, was hailed for the savage performance of George C. Scott as Henry Drummond. Unfortunately, Scott became seriously ill during the short run and had to be replaced by Randall. The production closed after only 45 performances.
On September 19, 1996, Skylight, a London hit, opened here with the stars of the British production, Michael Gambon and Lia Williams. The domestic drama by David Hare took place in a depressing flat in London and involved former lovers who attempt to rekindle their love. The production received four Tony Award nominations and ran for 116 performances.
Stars of the present and future were packed into the tiny seven-member cast of the November 1997 musical Triumph of Love, adapted by James Magruder, Jeffrey Stock, and Susan Birkenhead from the Marivaux play. Betty Buckley, F. Murray Abraham, Susan Egan, Kevin Chamberlin, Nancy Opel, Christopher Sieber, and Roger Bart were featured in the chamber musical, which managed a run of only 83 performances.
On March 1, 1998, Art, an international hit by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, opened to rave reviews. It starred Alan Alda, Victor Garber, and Alfred Molina as longstanding buddies whose friendship is shattered over an expensive white-on-white painting that Garber’s character has bought. Performed without intermission, the comedy gave Molina a showstopping monologue about his battles with his mother-in-law over his impending wedding. During the play’s long run Alda was succeeded by Brian Cox, Judd Hirsch, and Buck Henry; Garber by Henry Goodman, Joe Morton, and George Segal; and Molina by David Haig, George Wendt, and Wayne Knight. Art won a Best Play Tony Award and received two other Tony nominations.
A new production of Arthur Miller’s 1968 play The Price opened here on November 15, 1999, starring Jeffrey DeMunn, Bob Dishy, Lisbeth Mackay, and Harris Yulin. It was well received. The drama involves two brothers who have been estranged for 16 years. One a successful doctor, the other a policeman, they meet again in an attic to dispose of their late father’s belongings and to battle over the past that the furniture represents. The drama was directed by actor James Naughton and ran for 128 performances.
A lauded British play, Copenhagen, opened at the Royale Theatre on April 11, 2000. Starring Philip Bosco, Blair Brown, and Michael Cumpsty, it told the complex tale, based on actual people and events, of a 1941 meeting between two brilliant physicists — German Werner Heisenberg and Danish Niels Bohr — plus the latter’s wife, Margrethe Bohr. The two men had collaborated on work that led to unlocking the power of the atom but were now on opposing sides in World War II. The meeting ended in personal disaster — but may have prevented Hitler from developing nuclear weapons. Written by Michael Frayn and directed by Michael Blakemore, the drama won the following Tony Awards: Best Play, Best Direction, and Best Featured Actress (Blair Brown). The American production of this intellectual drama was hailed for its thoughtful content and ran for 326 performances. The play was recorded with its original cast by Fynsworth Alley.
Gary Sinise earned glowing reviews as the rebellious Randle McMurphy in a revival of Dale Wasserman’s mental hospital drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which opened April 8, 2001, and stayed on Broadway through July. Amy Morton played the tyrannical Nurse Ratched.
Monologuist John Leguizamo took audiences on a tour through his fractured love life and his decision start a family in the solo drama Sexaholix…A Love Story, for three months starting December 2, 2001.
Billy Crudup visited for two months in April 2002 with a revival of The Elephant Man, also starring Kate Burton. Both actors earned Tony Award nominations. Comedian Jackie Mason brought his sixth solo comedy show, Prune Danish, to the Royale on October 22, 2002, but it had one of his shortest runs, five weeks.
Film stars brought two short-lived revivals of 1980s classics to the Jacobs in 2003. Whoopi Goldberg played the demanding jazz singer Ma Rainey (opposite Charles S. Dutton) in a revival of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in February. Danny Glover recreated his original 1982 Broadway performance as Willie, one of two black servants who watch their white charge transform into a racist teenager, in a June revival of Athol Fugard’s South African drama “MASTER HAROLD” . . . and the boys. The production was directed by Lonny Price, who had originated the role of Master Harold in that earlier production.
Nilo Cruz’s drama Anna in the Tropics came to Broadway in November 16, 2003, having already won the Pulitzer Prize after its regional debut. Jimmy Smits, Priscilla Lopez, and Daphne Rubin-Vegas were featured in this drama about passions that erupt when a new Lector — one who reads to the workers — is hired at a family-run cigar-making business in South Florida. The production stayed at the Jacobs for 113 performances.
Rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs went legit on April 26, 2004, in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, about a black family in conflict over how to spend an inheritance. He wisely surrounded himself with top acting talent, notably Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald as his mother and wife, respectively. Both women won Tony Awards for their performances. Critics saluted Combs for giving a much more complex and creditable performance than they had expected in his Broadway debut. The production was filmed for cable TV broadcast in 2008. It was nominated for three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie, and it won the Humanitas Prize when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.
Actress Edie Falco, then at the height of her fame from playing Carmella on TV’s "The Sopranos," returned to Broadway November 14, 2004, in a revival of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer-winning suicide drama ’night, Mother. But critics felt it lacked the spark of the original, and it survived for only two months.
Another 1980's drama got a better-received revival in May 2005 when Liev Schreiber, Alan Alda, Tom Wopat, and Jeffrey Tambor led the ensemble in director Joe Mantello’s production of David Mamet’s Pulitzer-winning Glengarry Glen Ross, about a group of real-estate salesmen pushed to the edge when an aggressive new manager is brought on board. It won the Tony Award as Best Revival of a Play and ran for 137 performances.
On May 9, 2005, shortly after the opening of Glengarry, the theatre was renamed in honor of Bernard B. Jacobs (1916-1996), who had been president of the Shubert Organization for more than two decades.
Oscar winner Julia Roberts drew crowds to the Jacobs Theatre in April 2006 when she made her Broadway debut in Three Days of Rain, Richard Greenberg’s mystery drama that uses the same three actors to play members of a younger generation in Act I, and then their own parents in Act II. Despite a publicity blitz, neither Roberts nor the show impressed critics, and the production did not extend its 70-performance limited run.
Comedian Martin Short, a Tony winner for Little Me, parodied show-business autobiographies with the musical revue Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, which boasted a score by the Hairspray team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Though the show followed the general outline of Short’s career, Short, Wittman, Shaiman, and Daniel Goldfarb had fun making up vast swaths of it, including a time when Short supposedly costarred as a fence in a movie that looked a lot like The Wizard of Oz, and when he played Jesus’s stepbrother in a sequel to Godspell. Short wasn’t afraid to share the spotlight with an A-team supporting cast he dubbed “Comedy All Stars”: Capathia Jenkins, Brooks Ashmanskas (Tony nomination), Mary Birdsong, Nicole Parker, and composer Shaiman himself on the piano. This entertaining nonsense opened August 17, 2006, and stayed for 165 performances.
Frost/Nixon transferred here from London’s Donmar Warehouse Theatre on April 22, 2007. Peter Morgan’s hit UK drama purported to show what happened behind the scenes in 1977 when English talk-show host David Frost conducted a series of interviews with former President Richard M. Nixon, in which Nixon is shown to have admitted authorizing the Watergate break-ins that eventually brought down his presidency. Frost/Nixon presented one marvelous performance, by Michael Sheen as Frost, and one titanic performance, by Frank Langella as Nixon. Langella showed Nixon as foxy, often paranoid, and sometimes alcoholic. But he also made a good case for Nixon’s side of the story. The performance won him the 2007 Tony Award as Best Actor in a Play. And when Langella and Sheen recreated their roles in the 2008 movie version, Langella was nominated for the Oscar as Best Actor in a Leading Role.
British playwright Tom Stoppard was born and spent his early days in the Eastern European country of Czechoslovakia. He returned to his roots there with his November 4, 2007, drama Rock ’n’ Roll, about the 1968 “Prague Spring,” when the communist government of that country briefly relaxed control before the Soviet army was called in. The play opened in the shadow of Stoppard’s epic The Coast of Utopia, which had won the Tony for Best Play just a few months earlier. Trevor Nunn directed a cast led by Rufus Sewell and Sinéad Cusack. It stayed until early March 2008.
Film star Morgan Freeman starred in Clifford Odets’s The Country Girl as an alcoholic has-been leading man trying to make a comeback. Despite a glowing performance by Frances McDormand as his long-suffering wife, the production lasted less than three months after its April 27, 2008, opening.
Composer Jason Robert Brown had won the Tony Award for Best Score for his debut Broadway effort, Parade, in 1998. Since then he had attracted a devout following of fans who loved his passionate and resolutely original songs for Off-Broadway shows like The Last Five Years. None of his projects enjoyed prolonged runs, and when it was announced in 2008 that Brown would be returning to Broadway with a musical called 13, which had a completely original score with an original book by Robert Horn and Dan Elish, Brown’s fans were in ecstasy. The show dealt with a Jewish boy whose mother moves him to an unwelcoming new town just as he is about to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah, given at age 13. All the characters in the show were similarly supposed to be 13 or thereabouts, and to keep things even realer, not only was the entire cast populated by teen actors like Allie Trimm and Graham Phillips, but the musicians in the orchestra were also teens The show opened October 5, 2008, but the bad luck of the title must have been working overtime, because 13 got slammed into the lockers by the critics and, to Brown fans’ chagrin, class was dismissed after just 105 performances.
One of the biggest hits of the 2008-9 season was Yasmina Reza’s comedy God of Carnage, a portrait of two middle-class couples whose veneer of civilization quickly wears away when their two sons get involved in a schoolyard fight. The spare one-act play was performed by a stellar four-person ensemble consisting of TV and film stars James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, and Hope Davis. The production opened March 22, 2009, and immediately zoomed to sellout status. All four actors were nominated for Tony Awards; Harden won Best Actress in a Play. Director Matthew Warchus was named Best Director of a Play, and the script took the Tony as Best Play of 2009.
The production took the unusual step of going on hiatus for several months in summer 2009 but was immediately restored to SRO status when the original cast came back in the fall. After they left for good, the production attracted star replacements from the worlds of stage, film, and television, including Lucy Liu, Jimmy Smits, Annie Potts, Christine Lahti, and Janet McTeer.
Next up was what was hailed as Broadway's first emo rock musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman and book by director Alex Timbers. An unorthodox and highly original look at the nation's seventh president and the culture that spawned him, it made a star out of Benjamin Walker but only lasted for 94 performances on Broadway.
Following the musical was a revival of That Championship Season, Jason Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about an ailing basketball coach and his now-grown pupils. It was directed by Gregory Mosher and starred Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jason Patric, the playwright's son.
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