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Theater Stories: THE PAJAMA GAME's Box Office Record, Diane Paulus' 1776 Revival & More About The American Airlines Theatre

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!

Theater Stories: THE PAJAMA GAME's Box Office Record, Diane Paulus' 1776 Revival & More About The American Airlines 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 American Airlines Theatre Built?

The American Airlines Theatre, originally called the Selwyn, was built in 1918 and designed by George Keister, who also designed the Belasco Theatre and the Apollo Theater. The theatre originally had 1,180 seats (it now seats 740) and featured separate smoking rooms for men and women, plus other novel features, including dressing rooms equipped with a shower and phone. After housing well-known plays and musicals in the early 1900s, the theatre was eventually converted to a cinema, and operated on and off as both a movie theater and legitimate theatre for decades, housing productions such as Wake Up and Dream (1929), Three's a Crowd (1930) and more. The theatre was briefly used in the early 1990s as the Times Square Visitors Center, and was also used as a legitimate theatre for a limited production of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape, but for the most part, it stood vacant. In 1992, the Selwyn fell under the protection of the New 42nd Street organization, and it wasn't until 1997 that The Roundabout Theatre Company committed to renovating it. They renamed it the American Airlines Theatre for its main sponsor, and the theatre reopened in 2000 with a production of The Man Who Came to Dinner starring Nathan Lane.

Is the American Airlines theatre more well-known for housing plays or musicals?

The American Airlines Theatre throughout its history, has primarily been known for housing plays! Some of the most lauded plays to be performed in the theatre include Betrayal starring Juliette Binoche and Liev Schreiber, 2001 Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Nominee; A Day in the Death of Joe Egg starring Eddie Izzard and Victoria Hamilton, 2003 Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Nominee; 12 Angry Men starring Boyd Gaines, James Rebhorn and more, 2005 Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Nominee; The Constant Wife starring Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave, 2006 Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Nominee; The 39 Steps starring Charles Edwards, Jennifer Ferrin and more, 2008 Best New Play Nominee; Les liaisons dangereuses starring Laura Linney, Ben Daniels and more, 2008 Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Nominee; and many others! The most recent plays to be housed in the American Airlines Theatre include A Soldiers Play (2020) starring Blair Underwood, David Alan Grier and more; The Rose Tattoo (2019) starring Marisa Tomei; All My Sons (2019) starring Tracy Letts, Annette Bening and more; True West (2019) starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano; Bernhardt/Hamlet (2018) starring Janet McTeer; John Lithgow: Stories by Heart (2018) plus many others!

[The Rose Tattoo, 2019 production starring Marisa Tomei]

What well-known musicals have taken the stage at the American Airlines Theatre?

The musicals to have been presented at the American Airlines Theatre include: The Boys from Syracuse (2002) Big River (2003) starring Michael McElroy, Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominee, Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominee; The Pajama Game (2006) starring Harry Connick, Jr., Kelli O'Hara and more, Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical; Everyday Rapture (2010) starring Sherie Rene Scott; Violet (2014) starring Sutton Foster; On the Twentieth Century (2015) starring Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher and Andy Karl; and others!

[On the Twentieth Century, 2015 production starring Kristin Chenoweth, Andy Karl & Peter Gallagher]

What show holds the box office record at the American Airlines Theatre?

The show that holds the box office record at the American Airlines Theatre is The Pajama Game! The production grossed $477,030 for the week ending April 30, 2006. The 2006 Broadway revival of The Pajama Game was directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, and starred Harry Connick, Jr., making his Broadway debut, Kelli O'Hara, Michael McKean, Roz Ryan, and Megan Lawrence. The revival was nominated for 9 Tony awards, winning Best Revival of a Musical, and Best Choreography for Kathleen Marshall.

[The Pajama Game, 2006 production starring Harry Connick Jr. and Kelli O'Hara]

What shows were set to head into the theatre next?

The American Airlines Theatre is currently closed due to the Broadway shutdown. The shows that were previously set to make their way to the American Airlines Theatre prior to the shutdown were 1776, and Birthday Candles. Directed by Diane Paulus, the revival of 1776 held a Zoom workshop in April 2020, and featured a gender-inclusive cast, starring Nancy Anderson (George Read of DE), Becca Ayers (Col. Thomas McKean of DE), Tiffani Barbour (Custodian Andrew McNair), Allison Blackwell (Robert Livingston of NY), Hannah Cruz (Judge James Wilson of PA), Allyson Kaye Daniel (Abigail Adams / Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon of NJ), Elizabeth A. Davis (Thomas Jefferson of VA), Mehry Eslaminia (Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress), and more. The revival of 1776 is currently set for Spring 2022.

Birthday Candles is written by by Noah Haidle and directed by Vivienne Benesch, the new play will star Emmy Award winner Debra Messing as "Ernestine," Andre Braugher as "Matt" and Enrico Colantoni as "Kenneth," Crystal Finn as "Joan/Alex/Beth," Susannah Flood as "Alice/Madeline/Ernie," and Christopher Livingston as "Billy/John." A new date for Birthday Candles has yet to be announced.


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From This Author Chloe Rabinowitz