Theater Stories: Learn About HADESTOWN + Other Tony-Winning Shows, and More About The Walter Kerr Theatre

Learn history, fun facts and more about the Walter Kerr Theatre

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It is impossible to walk into a Broadway theatre, or simply just think of a Broadway theatre, without immediately connecting a memory to it. Every Broadway theatre is filled with a rich and colorful history, brimming over with stories of the stars who graced its staged, legends that were made within its walls, and the feelings we all have of looking back and thinking "I saw a Tony winning performance in that theater" or "I wish I'd seen that performance in that theater."

Whether a theater has a history that's a hundred years old or closer to forty, every Broadway theater tells a story, each one filled with fun facts you never knew!

With our new series, Theater Stories, we're bringing you tidbits you may have never heard, tales you never thought to ask about and more, giving you a better look into the history of Broadway theatres, as well as a leg-up on your next theater-trivia night.

When was the Walter Kerr Theatre Built?

The Walter Kerr Theatre was built in 1921, and was designed by none other than Herbert J. Krapp, who also designed the Ambassador Theatre, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Ethel Barrymore Theatre, Biltmore Theatre, Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, Broadhurst Theatre and more. Originally called the Ritz Theatre, it was operated as a radio station and television studio from 1943 to 1965. Between 1956 to 1965, the theatre bounced between owners before falling into disuse from 1965 to 1971. It reopened with the musical Soon, featuring a book by Martin Duberman, which closed after three performances. In 1973, the theatre became a children's theater named for Robert F. Kennedy, before being acquired by Jujamcyn Theaters in 1980. In 1990 the theatre was restored and named after theater critic Walter Kerr.

Who was Walter Kerr?

Video: Josh Groban Is Full of Joy Over His Tony NominationWalter Kerr was a renowned Broadway theatre critic, and was also was the writer, lyricist, and director of several Broadway musicals and plays, as well as the author of several books. Kerr began writing for the New York Herald Tribune in 1951. When the paper folded, he then began writing theater reviews for The New York Times in 1966, where he wrote for the next seventeen years. Kerr was especially well-known for his critiques of Stephen Sondheim musicals, calling Company cold and cynical and Follies intermissionless and exhausting, though his review of A Little Night Music was positive, calling the score "a gift". Eventually, in the late 70s, Kerr wrote about Sondheim: "I needn't tell you that Stephen Sondheim is, both musically and lyrically, the most sophisticated composer now working for the Broadway theater." Walter Kerr won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1978, and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1983. Kerr passed away on October 9, 1996, 6 years after the Ritz Theatre was renamed in his honor.

What well-known stars and shows have graced the stage of the Walter Kerr Theatre?

Shows performed at the theatre include The Piano Lesson (1987), Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1993), Seven Guitars (1996), Proof (2000), A Little Night Music (2009), Lysistrata Jones (2011), Clybourne Park (2012), A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (2013), The Crucible (2016), Amélie (2017), Springsteen on Broadway (2017), and Hadestown (2019). Stars who have appeared on the Walter Kerr Stage include Joe Mantello, Kathleen Chalfant, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary-Louise Parker, Saoirse Ronan, Jessica Chastain, Eva Noblezada, Phillipa Soo, André De Shields, Reeve Carney and more.

How many of the shows performed at the Walter Kerr were Tony-winning?

The Walter Kerr has housed seven winners of the Tony Award for Best Play: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, and Angels in America: Perestroika by Tony Kushner; Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally; Proof by David Auburn; Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg; Doubt by John Patrick Shanley; and Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. The Theatre has also housed two winners of the Tony Award for Best Musical: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder featuring book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak; and Hadestown, featuring music, lyrics and book by Anaïs Mitchell. Springsteen on Broadway also took home a Special Tony Award in 2018.

What show is currently being housed in the theatre?

The show currently in the Walter Kerr Theatre is Hadestown! Hadestown began previews at the Walter Kerr on March 22, 2019 and opened on April 17, 2019. The musical stars Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Patrick Page, Amber Gray, André De Shields and more. The musical received Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, Best Scenic Design in a Musical, Best Lighting Design in a Musical, Best Sound Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations.


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