Theater Stories: MEAN GIRLS Box Office Records, Backstage Traditions and More About The August Wilson Theatre!

Learn history, fun facts and more about the August Wilson Theatre!

By: Sep. 05, 2020
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Theater Stories: MEAN GIRLS Box Office Records, Backstage Traditions and More About The August Wilson 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.

Today's Theater Stories features The August Wilson Theatre!

Did You Know The August Wilson Theatre Wasn't Always Called The August Wilson?

The theatre first opened as the Guild Theatre in 1925 with a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. The theatre was leased to WOR-Mutual Radio as a studio in 1943, and then purchased in 1950 by The American National Theater and Academy and renamed the ANTA Theatre. In 1981, the theatre was purchased by Jujamcyn Theaters and named the Virginia Theatre for owner and Jujamcyn Board member Virginia McKnight Binger. In 2005, just days after playwright August Wilson's death, the theatre was renamed in his honor.

Who was August Wilson?

Theater Stories: MEAN GIRLS Box Office Records, Backstage Traditions and More About The August Wilson Theatre! August Wilson was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Wilson was best known for his ten-play collection called 'The Pittsburgh Cycle' which focuses on the African American experience in various decades throughout the 20th century. The plays included in The Pittsburgh Cycle are Jitney, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, King Hedley II, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes, Wilson was awarded a Tony Award, an Olivier Award, Drama Critics Circle Awards, the Golden Plate Award and many more.

What is the August Wilson Theatre's Longest Running Show?

The longest running show at the August Wilson was Jersey Boys! Jersey Boys ran from November 6, 2005 to January 15, 2017 (4,642 performances!) Jersey Boys is currently the 12th longest-running show in history, sandwiched between Rent at number 11 and Miss Saigon at number 13. Jersey Boys, the behind-the-music story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, originally starred Christian Hoff (Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard(Bob Gaudio), J. Robert Spencer (Nick Massi) and John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli). The production won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

What Show Currently Calls The August Wilson Theatre Home?

The show currently playing the August Wilson Theatre is Mean Girls! Mean Girls officially opened at the August Wilson on April 8, 2018. Featuring music by Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and a book by Tina Fey, the original cast of the show featured Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Grey Henson, Ashley Park, Kate Rockwell, Kerry Butler, Kyle Selig, Cheech Manohar and Rick Younger. The musical was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and achieved a box office record for the August Wilson theatre, grossing $1,994,386 for the week ending December 30, 2018.

What Other Notable Shows and Performances Have Graced the August Wilson Stage?

Humphrey Bogart starred in The Mask and the Face in 1933, Rosalind Russell made her Broadway debut in The Garrick GAieties in 1930, Henry Fonda starred in Our Town in 1969, just to name a few! Some of the August Wilson Theatre's best-known shows include The Owl and the Pussycat, Purlie, Copperfield, Carrie, City of Angels, Jelly's Last Jam, Smokey Joe's Cafe, The Wild Party, Groundhog Day and more!

Which 'Wild Party' was in the August Wilson Theatre?

Two well-known shows, both entitled 'The Wild Party' - and both based off the same source material- debuted in the same theatre season (1999-2000), one on Broadway (Michael John LaChiusa's) and one Off-Broadway (Andrew Lippa's). LaChiusa's 'The Wild Party' premiered at The August Wilson Theatre on April 13, 2000. The production starred Toni Collette, Mandy Patinkin, Yancey Arias and more.

What Shenanigans Did the August Wilson Theatre and the Neil Simon Theatre Casts Get up to?

During the runs of Hairspray at the Neil Simon, and Flower Drum Song at the August Wilson, the casts had a tradition in which at five minutes to curtain, they would run to the windows, and each yell across the street to one another, do a dance, a striptease, anything ridiculous! Telly Leung, Brynn O'Malley and more have shared stories of the antics the two casts would get up to, every day, five minutes before the curtain was set to rise!

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