The space that currently houses the revival of The Fantasticks will be named the Jerry Orbach Theater at a June 21 dedication ceremony. (The Snapple Center's other theatre, which is the home of the long-running Perfect Crime, remains unnamed).
In a statement, Catherine Russell, the Center's General Manager, said, "The Snapple name and theatre space are terrifically popular and we wanted to complement that with something really connected to New York theatre history."
The idea to name the theatre after Orbach was inspired by a photo of the actor — who played El Gallo in the original 1960 production of The Fantasticks — that was seen in the lobby. Russell and associate director Charles Geyer met with Orbach's widow, Elaine Cancilla-Orbach, and told her of their idea for renaming the theatre in her late husband's honor. Cancilla-Orbach then called "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf.
"Dick was marvelous," said Cancilla-Orbach in a statement. "I told him what we were trying to do, and he said, 'Of course, Elaine – anything you want.' That's the kind of deep, mutual admiration Dick and Jerry had for each other."
"It was perfect," added Geyer. "Everyone knows Jerry Orbach as Lennie Briscoe from 'Law & Order.' But he was also one of the most important and versatile theater actors ever." The lobby of the Jerry Orbach Theatre will feature a gallery of Orbach photos, and monitors will also be installed outside the venue with footage of the late star. The theatre will also offer benefits for the New York Eye Bank and the Detectives' Endowment Association as well as a theatre management internship and master classes. Some of the classes will be taught by Orbach's widow, who is a veteran of such Broadway productions as Sweet Charity and Chicago. In fact, Cancilla-Orbach first met her late husband when she was a standby for the role of Velma Kelly in the original production of Chicago; Orbach created the role of Billy Flynn.
The June 21 dedication of the theatre — and the adjacent Elaine Cancilla-Orbach Rehearsal Studio — will begin at 5:30 PM. Sam Waterston is scheduled to speak at the event, which will also feature an appearance by Tony winner Karen Ziemba.
The Snapple Theater Center is located in Manhattan at 50th Street and Broadway.
Jerry Orbach was nominated for three Tony Awards and originated such legendary roles as El Gallo in The Fantasticks and Billy Flynn in Chicago. He had more recently become known for his role as the New York City detective Lennie Briscoe on the television series "Law & Order." He also voiced the character Lumiere in the animated film version of "Beauty and the Beast." The revered star died Dec. 28, 2004, at age 69.