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Thursday, 24 May 2012 11:31

The Little/Helen Hayes Theatre Celebrates 100th Birthday on Thursday, May 24


Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein will host a special Birthday party on Thursday, May 24th to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Little / Helen Hayes Theatre (240 West 44th Street), which opened on March 12, 1912 with John Galsworthy’s play The Pigeon. The theatre is currently home to the smash hit musical Rock of Ages.

{module ad_left_body}Fierstein along with theatre owners Martin Markinson and Jeff Tick will be joined by Danny Aiello, Douglas Carter Beane, Kerry Butler, Kevin Chamberlin, Alison Fraser, Steve Guttenberg, Jonathan Hadary, Jessica Hecht, Jackie Hoffman, Rupert Holmes, Dana Ivey, Jay Johnson, Sarah Jones, Patricia Kalember, Roslyn Kind, Debra Monk, Mary Testa and Alfred Uhry and more.

This centennial celebration was conceived by Alan R. Markinson and the event is produced by Carla Weiss with co-producers Susan S. Myerberg, Alan R. Markinson, Sharon Fallon and Jacqueline Munoz. The house staff for the event is Matthew DiCarlo (production stage manager), Douglas Purcell (Head Carpenter), Joseph P. Beck (Head Electrician), Albert Toth (Head Propertyman), Robert Etter (Sound Engineer) and Hector Angulo (Engineer).

[The history that follows is courtesy of Playbill©]

This theatre opened as the Little Theatre in 1912. Later names included the Winthrop Ames, Anne Nichols’ Little, Times Hall and finally, in 1983, the Helen Hayes Theatre. In the winter of 2007 the Hayes, owned and operated by Martin Markinson and Donald Tick, was spruced up with a renovated auditorium, new seats, carpeting, painting and restoration of the relief ceiling.

Past productions that have played the Hayes have included Next Fall; The 39 Steps; Slava’s Snowshow; Xanadu; Jay Johnson: The Two and Only; Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway; Bridge & Tunnel, starring Special Tony winner Sarah Jones; Latinologues; Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed; Golda’s Balcony, written by William Gibson and starring Tovah Feldshuh; Frank Gorshin in Say Goodnight, Gracie; By Jeeves; George Gershwin Alone; Dirty Blonde; Getting and Spending; The Last Night of Ballyhoo (Tony, Best Play); Rob Becker’s Defending the Caveman; Joan Rivers in Sally Marr and Her Escorts; Lynn Redgrave’s Shakespeare For My Father; Prelude to a Kiss; Artist Descending a Staircase; Romance, Romance; The Nerd; Corpse!; and Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy (Tonys, Best Play and Best Actor).

During the 1980s three interesting shows played here: Ned and Jack; Faye Dunaway in Curse of the Aching Heart; and Solomon’s Child, an exposé of fanatical religious cults.

In 1977 Albert Innaurato’s Off-Broadway hit, Gemini, moved here and ran for an amazing 1,788 performances, making it the fifth-longest running straight play in Broadway history. Another 1970s hit: The Runner Stumbles.

From 1964 to 1974 this theatre was leased to Westinghouse Broadcasting and hosted the Merv Griffin and David Frost TV shows.

In the 1960s the theatre housed Tambourines to Glory, a gospel-music play by Langston Hughes and Jobe Huntley; the Paul Taylor Dance Company; Habimah, the National Theatre of Israel, which staged The Dybbuk, Children of the Shadow and Each Had

Six Wings; James Costigan’s Baby Want a Kiss, with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Costigan; and Frank Gilroy’s Pulitzer Prize play The Subject Was Roses, which moved here.

From 1942–1959 this house ceased being a legitimate theatre and was known as the New York Times Hall and, later, the ABC Television Studio.

Highlights of the 1930s included Edward G. Robinson in Mr. Samuel; Elmer Rice’s The Left Bank; Honeymoon; One More Honeymoon; and Pre-Honeymoon by Anne Nichols, author of the legendary Abie’s Irish Rose. At this time the theatre’s name was changed to Anne Nichols’ Little Theatre.

In 1936 Sir Cedric Hardwicke made his U.S. debut in Promise, and the following year, Cornelia Otis Skinner entertained in her one woman show, Edna His Wife. A sparkling revue called Reunion in New York reunited a group of talented performers from Vienna.

Hits of the 1920s included O’Neill’s first Broadway play, the Pulitzer-winning Beyond the Horizon, which moved here from another theatre; The First Year, written by and starring Frank Craven; two Guy Bolton comedies, Polly Preferred and Chicken Feed; Wallace Ford and Nydia Westman in a huge hit, Pigs; Thomas Mitchell in Marc Connelly’s The Wisdom Tooth; 2 Girls Wanted; The Grant Street Follies; and Rachel Crothers’s witty Let Us Be Gay.

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