BWW Exclusive: Counting Down to Jennifer Ashley Tepper's THE UNTOLD STORIES OF BROADWAY, VOLUME 3 - The Majestic Theatre
Have you ever wanted to spend time with Stephen Sondheim in the lobby during one of his shows? Did you know that Patti LuPone once had a Broadway ghostly encounter? Have you wondered what it was like to be in the landmark Broadway premiere of Angels in America?
From opening nights to closing nights. From secret passageways to ghostly encounters. From Broadway debuts to landmark productions. Score a front row seat to read hundreds of stories about the most important stages in the world, seen through the eyes of the producers, actors, stagehands, writers, musicians, company managers, dressers, designers, directors, ushers, and door men who bring The Great White Way to life each night. You'll never look at Broadway the same way again.
DRESS CIRCLE PUBLISHING will release THE UNTOLD STORIES OF BROADWAY, VOLUME 3, the latest in a series by acclaimed historian and producer Jennifer Ashley Tepper on Tuesday, November 15. To pre-order the book, please visit www.dresscirclepublishing.com.
This is the third book in a series that will tell the stories of all of the Broadway theaters. Volume 3 includes the Broadhurst, the Belasco, the Edison, the Lyric, the Majestic, the Schoenfeld, the St. James and the Walter Kerr: eight Broadway theaters that light up New York City.
Below, BroadwayWorld is excited to give you a sneak peek of the new book, with a look at: The Broadhurst Theatre...
The Majestic Theatre
Did You Know:
Richard Rodgers watched opening night of Carousel from the wings?
Richard Rodgers told a story about how on opening night of Carousel, he pulled his back, so he had to watch the show while lying on a stretcher behind velvet curtains just offstage left. You can actually walk into the Majestic today and see: Oh, that's the spot where Richard Rodgers watched Carousel from. In my work at the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, I see photos all of the time of them working in the Majestic, and I think: I've worked in that exact spot!
Did You Know:
A great prank on Broadway in 1953 is still remembered today.
George S. Irving, Actor
Me and Juliet was great fun, but it was not a great musical. I played the part of the conductor in the show within the show. I went into the pit, conducted a little bit of the overture and then sang a bit.
The gimmick was that I, the conductor of the show, was sick of it and I wanted out. But the show was a success, and they tried every possible rouse to keep me in my job. The stage manager of the show within the show got the notion to send me a gardenia every night from a mysterious admirer. The admirer supposedly came to the theater every night, just to see me. There was a note with the gardenia that said: "I'll be sitting out here wearing a gardenia as well, so if you turn around, you'll probably see me."
Because of that, while I was conducting my overture, I turned around and looked out into the house, lifted my lapel, and smelled my gardenia, rolling my eyes dramatically because I was hooked on the idea of there being a lady admirer out there. It was a fun, cute bit.
I left the show before it closed, and on my last night, Bill Hayes, who played Larry in the show, played a prank on me. He was a wonderful young leading man. He bought gardenias and handed them out to every other audience member in the front row. When I turned around for my bit, to sniff the gardenia in my lapel, there were dozens of ladies with gardenias. It was a wonderful stunt.
Did You Know:
Frederick Loewe had a disappointing early career moment at the Majestic?
In 1938, the Majestic housed composer Frederick Loewe's first full musical score on Broadway, in a show called Great Lady. The New York Times praised several creative elements of the show, then wrote: "But most of Frederick Loewe's music is an eclectic reworking of familiar conventions." Billboard took their evaluation of the 37-year-old composer a step farther with: "Frederick Loewe has provided a routine score that drones on and on in uninspired fashion."
Loewe's shows Camelot and Brigadoon would later play the Majestic. And he'd write another show with 'Lady' in the title that no critic would dare put down: My Fair Lady.
Did You Know:
The gypsy run of the original production of The Music Man was when the cast knew they had a hit?
Barbara Cook, Actor
The Music Man was a very friendly company, and Bob was the spark plug of the show. He kept us all together, and kept us going. He often made little announcements before the performance, encouraging us to go out there and give a great show.
The night of the gypsy run, we had a feeling we might be in a huge hit. Of course you never know, but at the end of that run, people were literally standing on top of their seats to applaud. "Seventy-Six Trombones" happened at the end of the show, and the audience started rhythmically clapping along, and then it felt like it never stopped.
 Atkinson, Brooks, "Great Lady, Which Is A Biography of Madame Jumel With Music And Dancing," New York Times, December 2, 1938, page 26.
 Burr, Eugene, "New Plays on Broadway: Great Lady," Billboard, December 17, 1938, page 16.
Jennifer Ashley Tepper is the Director of Programming at Feinstein's/ 54 Below, and the author of The Untold Stories of Broadway book series. As the leader of Feinstein's/ 54 Below's creative team, Tepper has curated or produced over 1500 shows, ranging from musicals in concert, to original solo acts, to theatrical reunions, to songwriter celebrations, and beyond. On Broadway, Tepper has worked on shows in directing, producing, and marketing capacities, including [title of show], The Performers, the 2011 revival of Godspell, and the 2013 revival of Macbeth. In addition, she is the co-creator of the Bistro Award-winning concert series, "If It Only Even Runs A Minute," now in its 6th year. Tepper was recently named one of the 10 professionals on Backstage's "1st Annual Broadway Future Power List." According to the article, "Proving herself both a zeitgeist predictor and theatrical historian with her eclectic programming, Tepper is leading the conversation on contemporary musical theatre." Follow her on twitter @jenashtep.