Al Hirschfeld Theatre
Martin Beck Theatre
The Al Hirschfeld Theatre, showing the musical The Wedding Singer, 2006.
|Address||302 West 45th Street|
New York City
|Opened||November 11, 1924|
|Architect||G. Albert Lansburgh|
Interior decoration - Albert Herter
Designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh for vaudeville promoter Martin Beck, the theatre opened as the Martin Beck Theatre with a production of Madame Pompadour on November 11, 1924. It was the only theatre in New York that was owned outright without a mortgage. It was designed to be the most opulent theatre of its time, and has dressing rooms for 200 actors. The theatre has a seating capacity of 1,424, and is primarily host to large, ensemble plays and musical productions. It is one of the two Broadway theaters west of Eighth Avenue.
Famous appearances include Basil Rathbone as Romeo with Katharine Cornell as Juliet in December 1934; Burgess Meredith as Mio in Winterset in 1935; Richard Gere in Bent; Frank Langella in Dracula; Elizabeth Taylor in The Little Foxes; Christina Applegate as the title role in Sweet Charity; David Hyde Pierce as Lt. Coffi in the musical Curtains; and Daniel Radcliffe in the latest revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
On June 21, 2003, it was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in honor of the caricaturist famous for his drawings of Broadway celebrities, and reopened on November 23, 2003, with a revival of the musical Wonderful Town.
The Hirschfeld was designed by Lansburgh in a Byzantine and Moorish architectural style. A large arcaded street front spanning the length of the facade reminiscent of a movie palace and a large marquee on the roof gives the theater a distinctive look on the quieter, west of Eighth Avenue side of 45th Street. The auditorium seats the 1,424 patrons over two levels, with a long sloping orchestra and mezzanine, all under an elaborate, colorful Moorish painted dome. Distinctive details such as single boxes, the large proscenium arch and elaborate stained glass doors in the rear of the auditorium give the room character, leading to both the interior and exterior of the theater designated New York City landmarks in 1987.
In late 2002, Jujamcyn Theatres announced that the Martin Beck Theatre would be renamed in June 2003 in honor of illustrator Al Hirschfeld, as Hirschfeld approached his 100th birthday. Jujamcyn President Rocco Landesman described the renaming as “an important event for the history and heritage of Broadway.”  Landesman stated that “No one working in our world is more deserving than Al Hirschfeld.” Notably, Hirschfeld has become the only visual artist to have a Broadway theater named after him. James H. Binger, Chairman of Jujamcyn, explained that because Hirschfeld “started working in New York only two years after the Martin Beck Theatre was built, it seems wholly appropriate that the building bear his name--they have shared the street during Broadway’s golden age and beyond.”  In order to reflect how Hirschfeld’s career spanned the Martin Beck’s years of operation, a gallery was installed in the mezzanine which features 22 reproductions of the artist’s drawings portraying plays and actors who appeared at the theater.
Although Hirschfeld died prior to the official renaming on June 23, 2003, he knew that he would be receiving the honor. A celebration and tribute to Hirschfeld was held on the evening of the renaming, featuring performers such as Carol Channing, Matthew Broderick, Barbara Cook, playwright Arthur Miller, and many other figures drawn by Hirschfeld during their careers. Hirschfeld’s traditional aisle seat was left vacant in his honor during the presentation. The tribute opened with a screen projection of Hirschfeld’s Self-Portrait As An Inkwell, in which the artist portrays himself in his creative process and showcases his distinctive use of crow quill pen and Higgins India Ink in his drawings.
The theater constructed a new marquee to mark its renaming, featuring an illuminated version of Hirschfeld’s Self-Portrait As An Inkwell.  West 45th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues was closed to traffic for the unveiling of the new marquee. The marquee was initially installed with red neon representing the “ink,” but blue neon was later substituted because the red was perceived by some as “macabre”.
- 1931: The House of Connelly
- 1934: The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado
- 1934: Romeo and Juliet
- 1935: Winterset
- 1936 and 1939: Seasons of Gilbert and Sullivan
- 1937: High Tor
- 1939: Ladies and Gentlemen
- 1940: Cabin in the Sky
- 1941: Watch on the Rhine
- 1942: My Sister Eileen
- 1943: The Corn Is Green
- 1945: On the Town
- 1946: The Iceman Cometh
- 1947: Antony and Cleopatra
- 1951: The Rose Tattoo
- 1953: The Crucible
- 1953: The Teahouse of the August Moon
- 1956: Candide
- 1957: Orpheus Descending
- 1959: Sweet Bird of Youth
- 1960: Bye Bye Birdie
- 1961: Milk and Honey; The Happiest Girl in the World
- 1964: I Had a Ball
- 1965: Oliver!
- 1966: A Delicate Balance
- 1967: Hallelujah, Baby!
- 1968: Man of La Mancha (Transferred from ANTA Washington Sq Theatre, playing since 1965)
- 1977: Dracula
- 1979: Bent
- 1980: Onward Victoria
- 1981: The Little Foxes
- 1982: Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
- 1984: The Rink
- 1985: Take Me Along
- 1987: Into the Woods
- 1989: Grand Hotel
- 1992: Guys and Dolls
- 1995: Moon Over Buffalo
- 1997: Annie
- 1998: The Sound of Music
- 1999: Kiss Me, Kate
- 2002: Man of La Mancha
- 2003: Wonderful Town
- 2005: Sweet Charity
- 2006: The Wedding Singer
- 2007: Curtains
- 2008: A Tale of Two Cities
- 2009: Hair
- 2010: Elf the Musical
- 2011: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
- 2012: Fela!; Elf the Musical
- 2013: Kinky Boots
- 2019: Moulin Rouge!
Box Office Record
Kinky Boots achieved the box office record for the Al Hirschfield Theatre. The production grossed $2,247,240 over nine performances, for the week ending December 29, 2013.
- 3-M CHIEF BUYING THE MARTIN BECK
- Jacobs, Leonard, Backstage.com
- Windman, Matt, Theatermania.com
- Jacobs, Backstage.com
- Windman, Theatermania.com
- Pogrebin, Robin, New York Times
- Simonson, Robert.Playbill.com Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- Pogrebin, New York Times
- Buckley, Michael and Portantiere, Michael, Theatermania.com
- Rizzo, Frank, The Courant
- Simonson, Robert, Playbill.com Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- Pogrebin, New York Times
- Playbill.com Archived 2013-11-05 at the Wayback Machine.
- BWW News Desk , broadwayworld.com
- Who's Who in the Theatre, edited by John Parker, tenth edition, revised, London, 1947, p. 1184.
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