A Broadway theatre from 42nd Street's golden age will return to life Monday, Dec. 11, with the gala reopening of the Victory Theatre, rechristened the New Victory.
The 500-seat New Victory at 209 W. 42nd Street will house theatre and films geared specifically for children. An organization called The New 42nd Street operates the theatre, and has worked with Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Bill Irwin, Theatreworks/USA, Warrington Hudlin of the Black Filmmaker Foundation and others to schedule the theatre first season of productions.
The New Victory is the first theatre to reopen its doors under the multi-million dollar rehabilitation of 42nd Street, which will also include the renovation and 1997 reopening of Ziegfeld's old New Amsterdam Theatre (just across the street from the New Victory) as the throne of Disney's new theatre empire.
The Dec. 11 gala will feature an eclectic program: New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani will be joined by Patrick Stewart of "The Tempest" plus the Muppets and other guests.
The Dec. 19-31 engagement by the Canadian Cirque Eloize will be the first regularly-scheduled show at the former showcase for Lionel Barrymore, Tyrone Power and Lillian Gish. Here is a schedule of performances on the New Victory's renaissance season:
* "Cirque Eloize" -- Dec. 19-31
* "Sheila's Day" from New Jersey's Crossroads Theatre company. A South African story told in music and dance. -- Jan. 5-21.
* "Different Fields" from the Metropolitan Opera Guild. An original opera about the experiences of a former professional football player, with libretto by Sarah Schlesinger and music by former Cincinnati Bengal Mike Reid. -- Feb. 7-18.
* Theatre for a New Audience will host director Julie Taymor's version of "A Tale for Theatre by Carlo Gozzi," which uses masks, dance, magic and a fairytale format. -- Feb. 29 - March 24.
* "Snowflake" by Gale LaJoye. Magic and imagination transform junk into joy for a comic descendant of Charlie Chaplin. -- March 29-31
* "Tales of Victory: A Storytelling Festival." Storytellers from across the U.S. -- April 2-7.
* World Cinema, by The Black Filmmaker Foundation. Warrington Hudlin will show films for children from around the world. April 9-14.
* "Deuces Are Wild" curated by Bill Irwin. The comedian ("Fool Moon," "In Regard of Flight") will assemble a collection of New Vaudeville storytellers, comedians, musicians and dancers. May 1-12.
* Film Series by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. The two legendary directors will choose what they consider to be the greatest films for young people ever made. -- May 14-19.
* Theatreworks/USA. The leading professional theatre troupe for children will present its summer season of programming at the New Victory. -- July 9-28.
* A puppetry series curated by The Jim Henson Foundation will launch the New Victory's second season in September 1996.
To buy subscriptions through Tele-Charge, call (212) 239-6255. To order single tickets, call (212) 239-6200.
The reopening automatically makes the New Victory (built in 1900) the eldest operating theatre on Broadway, beating the current senior, the Lyceum, by two years. The Victory, originally called Hammerstein's Theatre Republic [sic], was built by lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II's father, Oscar Hammerstein, who pioneered theatre colonization of the Times Square area.
It was the first legitimate theatre on the block, and reportedly also the first to show pornographic films when the area went into decline in the 1960s. Many plays and stars appeared there over the years, most notably the long-running "Abie's Irish Rose" in the 1920s.
Hugh Hardy of the architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which oversaw the renovation, described the 500-seat theatre as a "miniature opera house, unlike any other theatre in the city."
HHPA also was responsible for renovating the Majestic Theatre at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the 30 Rockefeller Plaza complex in New York that includes the Rainbow Room night club.