Eugene O'Neill Theatre Information
- Location: New York, New York
- Address: 230 W. 49th St.
- Capacity: approx 1100
- Opened: 1925
The Eugene O'Neill Theatre, one of many performance halls that the Shubert brothers built in New York City before the Great Depression, originated as the Forrest Theatre in 1925. The building was designed by the well-renowned architect Herbert J. Krapp and exhibited Georgian architecture with elegant ceiling murals, intricately decorated cornices and porticos and an expansive stage. The theatre was built to hold 1,200 people and the Schubert brothers held onto the playhouse until 1945 when it was sold to City Playhouses, Inc., which renamed the building the Coronet. It would carry this moniker until 1959 when it was purchased by well-known Broadway producer Lester Osterman, who named the venue after Eugene O'Neill, a highly respected writer and director during the 1920s. The theatre would be bought yet again in 1982 by Jujamcyn Theatres, which has owned the playhouse ever since.
The Forrest Theatre opened with a series of flops that began with a musical comedy called Mayflowers in 1925. The production starred Ivy Sawyer, Joseph Santley (who co-directed with William Wilson) and Nancy Carroll, but it was a short-lived play that only ran for 81 performances. The theatre's versatile seating layout and ample acoustics made it ideal for dramas, comedies and large-scale musicals, and while it had a series of flops in its early years, many directors and writers have found the playhouse to provide an ideal mix of intimacy and projection to accommodate myriad productions.
After the playhouse was named the Coronet in 1945, the performance hall enjoyed a series of successes. The theatre hosted the debut of one of Arthur Miller's first hits in 1947 in the form of All My Sons. The play ran for 328 performances and put Miller on the radar of theatre buffs all over the country. Perhaps one of the space's greatest triumphs came in 2005, when director John Doyle staged a revival of the dark musical Sweeney Todd, originally written and composed by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Doyle was given a Tony Award for best director, and the production went on for 349 performances. In 2006, the following play, Spring Awakening, ran for 859 performances and won 8 Tony Awards, including best musical.
The Eugene O'Neill's compelling history and ideal dimensions share a special place in the hearts of Broadway directors and theatergoers who love the humble nature of the old playhouse.