The Manhattan Theatre Club, one of New York City's leading nonprofit, Off-Broadway theatres, will make the move to Broadway, relighting and filling the dormant and dilapidated Biltmore Theatre by the 2002-2003 season.
MTC and involved parties announced the plan Nov. 22. The Tony Award-honored resident company, flush with some of its greatest critical and commercial success in many seasons (including the Broadway transfers of Proof and Tale of the Allergist's Wife) entered into an agreement with Biltmore 47 Associates, LLC, for the planned $18 million rehabilitation and historic restoration of the Biltmore, the 75-year-old Broadway house where Hair played. The plays and artists to be presented will be eligible for Tony Awards at the Biltmore space.
Polshek Partnership Architects — with Carnegie Hall, The Public Theater and The Rose Center for Earth and Science to its credit — will design the rehabilitation. The 1,000-seat theatre will be reconfigured for 623 seats, and MTC will continue to operates its two Off-Broadway spaces at City Center.
Following a fire in 1987, the theatre was closed, and the building suffered damage from rain coming through holes in the ceiling and abuse from vandals.
"We are thrilled that after many years, our search for an additional theatre is now complete," MTC executive producer Barry Grove and artistic director Lynne Meadow said, in a joint statement. "The now-derelict walls of the Biltmore on West 47th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue virtually resonate with the history of American theatre." The renovation of the theatre is expected to cost $18 million due to the water, fire and other damage to the building. There are still hurdles to be faced before the plan is complete.
The rehabilitation is possible only if Biltmore 47 Associates LLC is successful in obtaining approvals from the City Planning Commission and City Council to get a "theatre rehabilitation bonus" that would allow the development of a planned adjacent multi-use building.
Biltmore 47 Associates will also be seeking approval from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, New York City Economic Development Corporation, City Planning Commission, and the City Council and the Borough Board to include in the new building unused "air rights" from the adjoining fire house.
"We are thrilled to be rescuing the historic Biltmore Theatre, home to such legendary productions as Hair, Butterflies Are Free, Barefoot in the Park and Deathtrap," said Adam Glick, president of the Jack Parker Corporation, the managing partner of Biltmore 47 Associates, LLC.
The Biltmore opened Dec. 7, 1925, with a play called Easy Come, Easy Go, a farce by Owen Davis that moved from the Cohan Theatre. The house was built by the Chanin brothers and designed by Herbert J. Krapp. The Federal Theatre Project presented works there in the 1930 and the theatre was later run by Warner Bros. as a home for theatre director George Abbott's productions. My Sister Eileen had a healthy run there, as did The Heiress. From 1952-61, the theatre was leased to CBS. In 1961, George Abbott directed Take Her, She's Mine there. Other works over the years included Lily Tomlin in Appearing Nitely, To Grandmother's House We Go, The Robber Bridegroom, Knock, Knock, Nuts and The American Clock.