Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Turns 100

PlayBlog   Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Turns 100
Happy 100th birthday Jan. 10 to a grand old lady of Broadway, the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

[caption id="attachment_3989" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre current marquee"]The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre current marquee[/caption]

According to Louis Botto's "At This Theatre," "This beautiful theatre opened on January 10, 1910, as the Globe, named after Shakespeare’s theatre in England. It was built by the illustrious producer Charles B. Dillingham and originally had its entrance on Broadway between Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh streets. Dillingham, who spared no expense on his projects, hired the famed architects Carrère and Hastings to design his theatre. According to a report in the New York Dramatic Mirror on January 22, 1910, the new theatre had a large stage, a compact auditorium, Italian Renaissance decor with draperies of Rose du Barry and walls of old gold, blue, and ivory white. One feature of the theatre that attracted much attention was a large oval panel in the ceiling that could be opened when the weather permitted. The Mirror called this 'a complete novelty in American theatrical design.'"

The inaugural production was the musical The Old Town, starring Dave Montgomery and Fred Stone (who had played the Tin Man and the Scarecrow in the original 1903 The Wizard of Oz).

Among the great stars and shows that followed: Montgomery and Stone in Chin-Chin (1914), George White’s Scandals (1920 and 1921) with a score by George Gershwin that introduced "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," the Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 with Fanny Brice and W.C. Fields, No, No, Nanette (1925) and Jerome Kern's The Cat and the Fiddle (1931).

The Globe spent the years 1932 to 1957 as a cinema, but it was refurbished as a legitimate house and reopened May 5, 1958 as the Lunt-Fontanne, named after the acting couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The ceiling opening was sealed and the entrance relocated to 46th Street. Lunt and Fontanne rechristened the stage with the original Broadway production of Friedrich Duerrenmatt's The Visit.

Among hits that played at the theatre after its renaming: the original The Sound of Music with Mary Martin (1959), Sid Caesar in Little Me (1962), the Duke Ellington musical revue, Sophisticated Ladies (1981), Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's Titanic (1997) and the theatre's record-holder, Beauty and the Beast, which moved from the Palace in 1999 and ran here for eight years. Disney's Little Mermaid played
more than a year, and the Lunt-Fontanne is currently being prepared for its next big musical, The Addams Family with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia.

— Robert Viagas

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