Location: New York, New York
Address: 302 West 45th Street
Capacity: approx 1400
The Al Hirschfeld Theatre is a landmark of the Times Square theatre district in New York City, but it began its life as the Martin Beck Theatre in 1924. Beck, an entrepreneur who made his fortune through vaudeville, enlisted the help of San Francisco architect G. Albert Lansburgh in order to build the stunning arena.
When the theatre opened, it had a seating capacity of 1,200 people (it currently seats 1,437) and offered enough dressing rooms to accommodate more than 200 actors and workers. Suffice to say, the theatre was a resounding success in its first few years and boasted some of the most popular shows on Broadway. After Beck's death in 1940, the space was sold to Jujamcyn Theaters in 1968 by his estate. The building was later given its current name in 2003 in honor of longtime New York cartoonist and caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who produced beautiful artwork depicting some of the best Broadway performances of the 20th century.
The theatre's first show, a light opera called Madame Pompadour, opened on November 11, 1924. Unfortunately, the production didn't gain any traction in drama circles and ended after 80 performances. The theatre would go on to host hundreds of shows over the coming decades, mostly on a seasonal basis, and boasted big acts such as Bye, Bye Birdie, Man of La Mancha and Dracula. During the 1990s and 2000s, musical revivals of Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate, The Wedding Singer and Hair became huge hits for the theatre. With the combination of lighthearted musicals and powerful dramas, the Al Hirschfeld Theatre has offered a little bit of everything over the years.
The venue has housed a number of Tony Award winning musicals as well, such as Into the Woods, scored by Steven Sondheim, and Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. More recently the theatre enjoyed huge success in 2010 with a live production of the hit Christmas movie Elf, which set a record by grossing more than $1.5 million in nine performances.
The theatre today is just as beautiful as the day it opened, and it is known for its large foyer, grand promenades, stained glass and accessible concessions and bathrooms. With a rich history of famous actors, directors and productions to its credit, the Al Hirschfeld theatre is still one of the most attractive buildings in New York's theatre district and a fabulous place to see a show.