The Nederlander Organization unveiled the rechristened Lena Horne Theatre at 256 West 47th Street November 1 with a formal dedication ceremony celebrating the name change. Formerly the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, the Lena Horne is currently home to the award-winning new musical SIX. The renaming marks the first time a Broadway theatre has been named for a Black woman.
Nederlander Organization President James L. Nederlander, whose father, James M. Nederlander, produced Horne's Tony-winning Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, said in an earlier statement, “We are proud to take this moment to rename one of our theatres in honor of the great civil rights activist, actress, and entertainer Lena Horne…I am so honored to have known Lena. She became a part of our family over the years. It means so much to me that my father was the producer of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, and it is my privilege, honor, and duty to memorialize Lena for generations to come.”
Gail Lumet Buckley, Lena’s daughter, and the Horne Family added, “On February 13, 1939, Brooks Atkinson wrote a review of the musical Blackbirds of 1939 for the New York Times. His review was generally unfavorable except for the mention of ‘a radiantly beautiful girl, Lena Horne, who will be a winner once she has proper direction.’ The proper direction came from within Lena herself. She sought an artistic education, and a political education. She sought her own voice, found it, and then fought for the right that was always denied her - the right to tell her own story. In 1981, James M. Nederlander offered her their stage and Lena's one woman show, The Lady and her Music ran for more than a year. 366 performances, in three countries. It was her fullest expression as an artist and storyteller. We're grateful to the Nederlander Organization for rechristening this space to the Lena Horne Theater. We hope artists and audiences alike will tell their own stories here.”
Ms. Horne, the singer and actor who broke down color barriers by becoming one of Hollywood's first African-American female stars, passed away in 2010 at the age of 92.
Ms. Horne had been nominated for a Tony Award for the hit 1957 Harold Arlen musical Jamaica, but when she burst back onto the scene as the star of her own one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, in 1981, it was as if the public was discovering her anew. Initially, the Nederlander Organization, Michael Frazier, and Fred Walker had booked her for four weeks into the Nederlander Theatre, but critics hailed her talents and the show ultimately ran for 14 months and won a Tony Award. The production was filmed for television broadcast and home video release. A tour began at Tanglewood during the July 4 weekend in 1982, and played 41 cities in the U.S. and Canada. It also played in London for a month in August, and ended its run in Stockholm, Sweden, September 14, 1984. Additionally, the cast album won a Grammy Award.
Check out photos from the event below: