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Theater Stories: Learn About the Box Office Record-Breaking Production of FENCES, THE MINUTES & More About The Cort Theatre

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Learn history, fun facts and more about the Cort Theatre!

Theater Stories:  Learn About the Box Office Record-Breaking Production of FENCES, THE MINUTES & More About The Cort Theatre

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 Cort Theatre built?

John Cort, founder of the Northwestern Theatrical Association, commissioned architect Thomas W. Lamb to design the theater. The facade of the theatre was modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles, with the interior designed in the style of the era of Louis XVI. The theatre officially opened in 1912 with the play Peg o' My Heart starring Laurette Taylor, which ran for 603 performances! The theatre had a string of successes in the 1920s, including The Swan in October 1923, The Second Mrs. Tanqueray in 1924, and more. The Cort Theatre did not always operate as a legitimate theatre, from 1969 to 1972 it was used as a television studio for The Merv Griffin Show! In 1987, The Cort Theatre was designated a New York City landmark.

What other shows have graced the stage of the Cort Theatre?

Shows that made its mark on the stage of the Cort include Saint Joan (1951) starring Uta Hagen; The Diary of Anne Frank (1955) starring Joseph Schildkraut, Susan Strasberg and more; Once Upon a Mattress (1960) starring Carol Burnett and more; Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1985) starring Theresa Merritt, Charles S. Dutton and more; You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush (2009) starring Will Ferrell; Fences (2010) starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis; Breakfast at Tiffany's (2013) starring Emilia Clarke; Bright Star (2016) starring Carmen Cusack, Paul Alexander Nolan and more; Indecent (2017) starring Katrina Lenk, Richard Topol and more; Derren Brown: Secret (2019) featuring Derren Brown, and much more!

What show broke the box office record at the Cort Theatre?

The show to break the box office record at the Cort Theatre was the 2010 revival of Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis! The production grossed $1,175,626 over eight performances, for the week ending July 11, 2010. The show went on to win 2010 Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Denzel Washington, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Viola Davis, and was nominated for 7 other Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play, Best Direction of a Play, Best Original Score, Best Scenic Design in a Play, Best Costume Design in a Play, Best Lighting Design in a Play, and Best Sound Design in a Play.

What was the longest running show in the Cort Theatre?

The longest running show in the Cort Theatre was The Magic Show, which opened in 1974 and ran for 1,920 performances! The Magic Show featured music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Bob Randall. The show starred magician Doug Henning, who was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the role. The show also garnered a Tony nomination for Grover Dale, who was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical! The show takes place in a night club, and follows the professional and romantic journey of magician 'Feldman the Magnificent'. A filmed version of the show, which was staged in 1980, was released on DVD in 2001. Directed by Norman Campbell at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto, it starred Doug Henning and Didi Conn. See a clip below!

What show is currently inhabiting the theatre?

Tracy Letts' The Minutes, starring Ian Barford, Blair Brown, Cliff Chamberlain, K. Todd Freeman, Armie Hammer, Tracy Letts, Danny McCarthy, Jessie Mueller, Sally Murphy, Austin Pendleton, and Jeff Still was set to open at the Cort Theatre on March 15, 2020, but was unable to make it to opening night due to the Broadway shutdown brought on by the global pandemic. The production loaded out its set on November 16th to make way for the previously planned renovation of the Cort and the construction at the adjacent property. The production is currently set to open on Broadway on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, exactly two years after its original opening date of Sunday, March 15, 2020.


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From This Author Chloe Rabinowitz