By Kenneth Jones
21 May 2002
There will be more chances to see the new musical, Hairspray, after the seating capacity of Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre is increased, according to sources in the theatre community.
Playbill On-Line has learned the Nederlander Organization has a plan to expand the seating capacity of the famed Broadway house that is currently home to Elaine Stritch at Liberty. Nederlander executive vice president Nick Scandalios confirmed the plan through a spokesman earlier this month but no further details were released.
The Simon's seating capacity is currently listed by The League of American Theatres and Producers as 1,328 in its weekly grosses list. The Nederlander website indicates the house's total potential will be 1,467, depending on usage of the facility (for use of the orchestra pit, rows BB and AA at the stage must be removed, which is a loss of 26 seats).
New seating will be added. In the mezzanine, an aisle that currently separates the front mezz from the rear mezz will be eliminated, according to a seating chart shown to customers at the box office and seen at Nederlander.org.
Reconfiguration is expected to begin after the run of Elaine Stritch At Liberty ends May 27. Tickets are now on sale for Hairspray, the new musical comedy that begins performances at the Simon beginning July 18 and opening Aug. 15. Hairspray ticketbuyers are currently being offered seats in the new rows.
The current seating chart for Elaine Stritch At Liberty shows orchestra rows ranging A-V; a new chart for Hairspray indicates orchestra rows A-Z. The current chart shows the front mezz running A-E (separated by a walkway) and the rear running A-M. The new chart indicates an uninterrupted A-U range of rows in the mezz.
Owned by the Nederlanders, the Neil Simon Theatre (formerly the Alvin Theatre), at 250 W. 52nd Street, is named for the famed American playwright who is still writing for the stage. It was dubbed the Simon June 29, 1983. Among past productions in the theatre are Simon's Jake's Women, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues, plus Annie, Shenandoah, Jackie Mason: Brand New, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Swan Lake, Merrily We Roll Along, Company, Wildcat, the original A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Liza Minnelli in Flora, the Red Menace, Andy Griffith in No Time For Sergeants, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn starring Shirley Booth, Gertrude Lawrence in the groundbreaking musical, Lady in the Dark, and two Ethel Merman vehicles: Cole Porter's Anything Goes and the Gershwins' Girl Crazy, among others. The Gershwins' American folk opera, Porgy and Bess, made its world premiere at the Alvin in 1935.
The Nederlander Organization owns or operates theatres throughout the U.S. and in London.