NYCB Theatre at Westbury
|Address||960 Brush Hollow Rd
Westbury, NY 11590
|Type||In the round|
|Opened||June 18, 1956|
|Owner||Live Nation Entertainment|
|Construction cost||$120,000 (original)
$1 million (1965 renovations)
|Former name(s)||Westbury Music Fair (1956-2005)
North Fork Theatre in Westbury (2005-08)
Capital One Bank Theatre at Westbury (2008-09)
Theatre at Westbury (2009-10)
NYCB Theatre at Westbury (2010- )
3,000 (1966- )
The NYCB Theater at Westbury (originally known as the Westbury Music Fair) is an entertainment venue located in the hamlet of Jericho, near Westbury, New York. Constructed as a theater in the round style with seating for 3,000 that was originally developed as a means to present top performers and productions of popular theatrical musicals at a series of venues located in suburban locations on the East Coast of the United States.
Radio broadcaster Frank Ford and nightclub owner Lee Guber were returning home with their wives after attending a 1954 musical performance presented in a tent. After the two kept commenting on how they could improve on the show they had just seen, Ford's wife told them "Well, why don't you". They went ahead with the idea, leading the creation of Music Fair Enterprises, Inc. Together with Shelly Gross, a television news anchor who had become disenchanted with his profession, the three raised $100,000 to lease the Devon, Pennsylvania site of what they named the Valley Forge Music Fair, which brought in profits exceeding $50,000 in its inaugural season in 1955.
An abandoned lime pit in Westbury, New York, a Long Island suburb of New York City, became the site of their second facility, the Westbury Music Fair. The original facility was an uninsulated blue-and-beige striped tent erected in 1956 that could accommodate 1,850, one of many similar tent-based theaters that existed nationwide in the mid-1950s. The tent was erected for $120,000 at a central Nassau County location conveniently located near the Northern State Parkway and the Wantagh State Parkway, though it was also on an approach path for planes landing at what later became John F. Kennedy International Airport, with noise from jet engines of planes overhead occasionally drowning out performers.
With Ford out of the picture, Gross and Guber constructed a theater on the site in 1966 that could fit 3,000 attendees. The new, permanent facility was a concrete building with carpeted floors and 3,000 metal director's chairs later fully upholstered seats were installed, climate controlled with heating and air conditioning. The building continued the theatre in the round format used in the original tent, which offered clear and close views from all seats and a more intimate proximity to performers, while keeping down production costs as sets could be minimally designed.
In its first year, which featured such performances as a production of The King and I, the theater grossed $230,000. By 1976, revenue had grown more than 50-fold, to $13 million. Ticket prices that had started at $2.50 to $4.50 when the theater opened, had climbed to an average price of $8.75 by 1976.
SFX Entertainment acquired the facility in 1998, and it is now owned and operated by Live Nation. In 2005, North Fork Bank acquired three-year naming rights to the venue; becoming the North Fork Theatre in Westbury. In 2008, the bank defunct and owned by Capital One. On March 24, 2008, the theatre was known as the Capital One Bank Theatre at Westbury. After one year, Capital One dropped naming rights and the venue briefly became known as the Theatre at Westbury. New York Community Bank purchased naming rights in May 2010, with the theatre being known as the NYCB Theatre in Westbury starting July 2010.
Among the stars who performed at their suburban theaters were Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, George Carlin, Ray Charles, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sergio Franchi, Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Jonas Brothers, Liza Minnelli, Don Rickles, George Maharis, Vivian Blaine, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Mike Tyson, The Doors, The Who, Lena Horne, Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Bob Weir, Jordin Sparks, RatDog, Chris Isaak, James Hunter & Weird Al Yankovic, among others.
- Naedele, Walter F. "Sheldon Gross, a founder of Valley Forge Music Fair", The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 23, 2009. Accessed June 26, 2009.
- Hevesi, Dennis. "Shelly Gross, Producer for Broadway and Suburbs, Dies at 88", The New York Times, June 25, 2009. Accessed June 25, 2009.
- Delatiner, Barbara. "20 Years at the Fair; 20 Years at the Fair Music for Many", The New York Times, September 12, 1976. Accessed June 25, 2009.
- "SFX Entertainment acquires Westbury Music Fair", Thomson M&A, January 13, 1998. Accessed June 25, 2009.
- "North Fork Bank Acquires Name-in-Title Rights to Westbury Music Fair". The Westbury Times. Anton Community Newspapers. February 11, 2005. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
- Grossweiner, Bob; Cohen, Jane (March 25, 2008). "New name for NY’s Westbury theater". TicketNews. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- Gamboa, Glenn (July 29, 2010). "For Westbury's theater, each name is Fair game". Newsday. Cablevision. Retrieved 5 October 2013.