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BWW Feature: The Unique and Sordid History of Broadway's Hudson Theatre

BWW Feature: The Unique and Sordid History of Broadway's Hudson Theatre
Hudson Theatre trading card, c. 1910
Origin and credit unknown.

The Hudson Theatre, over its long history, has put the spotlight on some of the best in the business including Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Helen Hayes, Ethel Barrymore, Judith Anderson and many more!

Now, Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal are taking the stage in the revival of Sunday in the Park with George, but the venue has gone through quite the journey over the last 114 years.

Henry B. Harris, one of the most well-known producers at the time, first opened the Hudson's doors in 1903. Nine years later, Henry died on the Titanic's ill-fated voyage. His wife, Renèe, survived and came back to New York City, where she ran the theatre after his death; making her one of Broadway's first female producers. The Hudson was then foreclosed upon during the Great Depression, but this was only the beginning of the theatre's diverse history.

BWW Feature: The Unique and Sordid History of Broadway's Hudson Theatre
PHOTO CREDIT: Geo. P. Hall & Son

In 1934, the space became a CBS Radio studio in order to pay for maintenance. Twenty years later, NBC purchased the venue and turned it into a broadcasting studio. THE TONIGHT SHOW, starring Steve Allen, held its nationwide premiere at the Hudson in 1956. Once the show relocated, the locale reopened as a theatre for a brief period.

TOYS IN THE ATTIC ran for over 450 performances with a cast starring Jason Robards, Jr., Irene Worth, and Maureen Stapleton. The next major production, a revival of Eugene O'Neill's STRANGE INTERLUDE, brought Jane Fonda and Ben Gazzara to the Hudson's stage. From March to June of 1965, THIS WAS BURLESQUE made its Broadway debut. Soon after its closing, the space was became a place for cinematic releases.

In 1967, Andy Warhol debuted his movie, BIKE BOY at the Hudson. The site briefly became a movie house before being a rock & roll venue, Savoy Nightclub. The building, in 1987, received a public landmark honor. Soon after, the location was used as an event space for the Millennials Hotels.

The Ambassador Theatre Group bought the theatre in 2014 with the intention of Gyllenhaal starring in a revival of BURN THIS. However, following the critical success of the concert version of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE last October, the decision was made to postpone for the Lanford Wilson revival in favor of a full revival of SUNDAY.

BWW Feature: The Unique and Sordid History of Broadway's Hudson Theatre
PHOTO CREDIT: Black History Album, The Way We Were

Now as the both oldest, and newest, Broadway theatre, the Hudson is continuing its tradition of providing entertainment to countless people. As said in Sunday in the Park with George, "There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart from this world: children and art;" the Hudson shall continue to do so for many more years.

Earlier this month, Jake Gyllenhaal gave a special behind-the-scenes look at the refurbished Hudson in a Facebook video of him singing "Finishing the Hat" back, and on, stage at the theatre:

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