Press and potential donors will attend a star-kissed Feb. 11 preview of the Roundabout Theatre Company's plan to move to 42nd Street's Selwyn Theatre.
The board of directors and campaign steering committee for the nonprofit Roundabout, which is vacating its current two-space home at the Criterion Center in Times Square this spring, will mingle with Christopher Plummer and members of the casts of Roundabout productions of Ashes to Ashes, Cabaret, The Mineola Twins and The Lion in Winter 5:30-7:30 PM Feb. 11 at the Hudson Theatre/Millennium Broadway in midtown.
The Roundabout, which currently has 40,000 subscribers, is expected to open at the Selwyn in January 2000.
Since 1965, the Roundabout Theatre Company has produced new and classic work throughout Manhattan, starting in the basement of a supermarket in Chelsea. A movie theatre on 23rd Street, a converted theatre (once Tammany Hall) in Union Square and its current Broadway location also served the nonprofit, which operates under a LORT contract with Actors' Equity. *
According to Playbill historian Louis Botto, author of "At This Theatre," the Selwyn was named for Broadway producer Arch Selwyn, opening Oct. 2, 1918, with a play called Information Please by Jane Murfin and Jane Cowl, starring Cowl. The opening night program boasted that it was the "most modern and complete theatre in the country and that it cost half a million to build."
It was designed by George Keister in the Italian Renaissance style and featured a novelty for that time: a lounge where both men and women could smoke. It had a single balcony and 1,100 seats.
Among productions there were Leslie Carter and John Drew in The Circle (1921); Charlot's Revue of 1926 starring Gertrude Lawrence, Beatrice Lillie and Jack Buchanan; The Royal Family (1928); Noel Coward and Beatrice Lillie in This Year of Grace (1928); Cole Porter's Wake Up and Dream (1929) and the brilliant revue, Three's A Crowd starring Fred Allen, Clifton Webb, Libby Holman, Tamara Geva and in the chorus, Fred MacMurray.
During the 1920s, the Selwyn occasionally booked films. From 1934 on the Selwyn showed films but in 1950 tried an experiment. It combined a film with a 60-minute live version of the plays, The Respectful Prostitute and Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath. It didn't work. Films were shown until the Selwyn closed in the l990s.
The Wooster Group's production of The Hairy Ape played the dilapidated Selwyn in 1997.
Although the entrance is on 42nd Street, most of the Selwyn rests on 43rd Street.