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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Walter Kerr Theatre

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • March 22, 2021

Jujamcyn Theaters celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the historic Walter Kerr Theatre, located at 219 West 48th Street in New York City’s Broadway district. Jujamcyn has created an interactive timeline for the theater, and features a century’s worth of history: from the earliest shows, musicals, and revues, through its history as a television and radio studio, brief spans as an adult film theater and later a children’s theater, and finally as one of the most beloved houses on Broadway. Here’s a video from 2018 celebrating the history of the Walter Kerr Theatre and includes commentary from Theater Consultant Roger Morgan who’s firm, Morgan Sachs Studio renovated the Kerr in the 1980s back to its original splendor:

The timeline features a curated collection of seldom seen ephemera including old production photos, Playbill covers, sheet music, and press clippings. In addition, the people who have made the Walter Kerr their home over the last century – actors, directors, designers, writers, house, and crew members – have contributed memories of their time at the Kerr. The interactive timeline can be viewed at www.jujamcyn.com/walterkerrtimeline

“It is no coincidence that this 100th anniversary of the Walter Kerr is also the beginning of spring,” said Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters. “The theater’s current show Hadestown affirms that however deep in our personal, communal, societal darkness we may feel, spring will indeed come again. As much as we have all lost in this past year, we can place ourselves in this long legacy and see that we are at a turning point, that we are the turning point. To mark this milestone, we offer some moments of reminiscence, solace, celebration by revisiting the first hundred years of the Kerr—and by extension Broadway as a whole—and recommitting to the next hundred years. We join everyone who has found their own personal spring in these hundred years of the Walter Kerr in looking forward to the spring that is to come.”

Designed by Herbert J. Krapp, and built in 1921, as the Ritz Theatre and renamed the Walter Kerr Theatre in 1990 after the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York theater critic for the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. The interior featured an Italian Renaissance style with gold leaf and Italian scrollwork. Following decades of use as a broadcast studio and cinema, Jujamcyn Theaters purchased the theater in 1981 and completed a full restoration of the house in 1990 led by Roger Morgan and Ann Sachs of the theater consulting firm, Sachs Morgan Studio.

The inaugural production under the new name was August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, which won the Pulitzer Prize. The Kerr has been home to over 150 Broadway productions including four plays by August Wilson, The Piano Lesson, as well as Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, and Gem of the Ocean. Seven winners of the Tony Award for Best Play have played the Kerr, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches; Angels in America: Perestroika; Love! Valour! Compassion!; Proof; Take Me Out; Doubt; and Clybourne Park, and two Tony Award-winning Best Musicals A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and its current show, Hadestown. In October 2017, Bruce Springsteen made his Broadway debut at the Walter Kerr in a solo show that was extended three-times and to this day holds the box office record for the theater.

Jujamcyn’s five Broadway theaters are the St. James, Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene O’Neill, and Walter Kerr. Current productions include the Tony Award-winning Best Musicals Hadestown and The Book of Mormon, and the currently Tony-nominated Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Jujamcyn’s legacy includes Springsteen on Broadway, Angels in America (original and revival), Falsettos, Jersey Boys, The Producers, Clybourne Park, Spring Awakening, Fela!, and six plays by August Wilson.

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