For anyone who has joined us on our ACT II Tour you've heard all about the Shubert Brothers and their theatrical journey from Syracuse, New York to Times Square in the early 1900's. Their journey was spearheaded by the strong-willed and charismatic Sam Shubert who led his brothers Lee and J.J. to become the biggest theatrical dynasty the nation had ever seen. Currently the Shubert Organization owns 17 Broadway Theaters, is about to acquire the largest Off-Broadway complex New World Stages, and has many theaters around the country.
In 1905, just as the three brothers were beginning their conquests in NYC tragedy struck. Sam was on a train headed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to check in on one of their theaters when his train collided with some freight cars just outside of Harrisburg, PA. Two days later Sam was pronounced dead at the age of 26. Lee and J.J. had no other choice but to pick up the reins left by their brother and to forge ahead guided by their brother's theatrical spirit.
(Lee and J.J. in the foreground, Sam's Picture behind)
Of all of their real estate assets there is one that is the crown jewel of their empire: The Sam S. Shubert Theater on 44th street, currently home to the British import Matilda: The Musical. Lee and J.J. built this theater in 1913 as a tribute to their brother and it still continues as a shining beacon of the prosperity of their accomplishments today. The line of green windows at the very top of the theater served as the offices of the brothers and are still the main offices of the entire Shubert Organization.
A few years later another Shubert Theater was built just north of the city in New Haven, CT which is the focus of this post. Last month was officially the 100th anniversary of this beautiful theater which served as home to many Broadway productions before they reached the New York audiences months later. Before producers would open their shows cold in New York City they would head "out-of-town" to Philadelphia, Boston or New Haven, CT. These large cities provided a great test audience for new musicals that needed to trim, hone and improve productions away from the bright lights of Broadway.
The list of shows that played the Shubert Theater in New Haven is unbelievable! If you look at the photo montage at the top of this post that will give you a glimpse at some of the larger productions that were first glimpsed within this theater's walls. In fact, audiences at the Shubert in New Haven were the first to see the initial collaboration with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein: Away We Go! If you've taken our ACT II Tour you know what this show later became: Oklahoma!
Last month the cast of the national tour of White Christmas sat down at the Shubert for a handful of performances. While they were there they made a beautiful homage to the Shubert Theater's history by crafting a new set of lyrics to "Snow" by Irving Berlin, retitling it "Shows!" I can't think of a better way to celebrate 100 years of shows and to kick off the next 100!
Thank you to the cast, including BUC friend Jeremy Benton, for this wonderful tribute!
See you on the sidewalk!