Theater Stories: WICKED, STARLIGHT EXPRESS, SWEENEY TODD, The Theater Hall of Fame & More About The Gershwin Theatre

Learn all about the shows of the Gershwin, from Wicked to Starlight Express and more!

By: Feb. 28, 2021

Theater Stories: WICKED, STARLIGHT EXPRESS, SWEENEY TODD, The Theater Hall of Fame & More About The Gershwin 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 Gershwin Theatre!

When was the Gershwin theatre built?

Theater Stories: WICKED, STARLIGHT EXPRESS, SWEENEY TODD, The Theater Hall of Fame & More About The Gershwin Theatre The Gershwin Theatre interior was designed by set designer Ralph Alswang. The Gershwin is the largest theatre on Broadway with 1,933 seats! The theatre opened as the Uris Theatre in 1972 with a production of the musical Via Galactica starring Raul Julia, before going on to serve as a concert hall from 1974 to 1976. The theatre then began its legacy of presenting large musicals, starting with Porgy and Bess in 1976. The Uris Theatre was officially renamed in honor of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin in 1983. The Gershwin underwent heavy modification in 1987 to make way for the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express in 1987, which was a massive production, costing over $8 million. The Gershwin Theatre was host to the Tony Awards in 1983, 1984, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1999.

What stars and shows have graced the stage of the Gershwin Theatre?

Shows to have been performed at the theatre include Via Galactica (1972) starring d Raul Julia, Irene Cara and more; Seesaw (1973) starring Tommy Tune, Michele Lee and more; Sammy Davis, Jr. in concert (1974); Andy Williams with Michel Legrand in concert (1974); Johnny Mathis in concert (1974); Anthony Newley with Henry Mancini in concert (1974); Queen in concert (1974); Porgy and Bess (1976) starring Donnie Ray Albert, Robert Mosley, Clamma Dale and Larry Marshall; The King and I (1977 revival) starring Yul Brynner, Constance Towers, Martin Vidnovic and more; Sweeney Todd (1979) starring Len Cariou, Angela Lansbury, Victor Garber, Sarah Rice and more;

The Pirates of Penzance (1981) starring Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, Kevin Kline, Estelle Parsons and more; My Fair Lady (1981 revival) starring Rex Harrison, Jack Gwillim, Milo O'Shea, Cathleen Nesbitt, and more; Show Boat (1983) starring Donald O'Connor; Starlight Express (1987) starring Robert Torti and more;

Barry Manilow Live on Broadway (1989); Fiddler on the Roof (1990 revival) starring Chaim Topol, Marcia Lewis, Ron Bohmer and more; Candide (1997) starring Jason Danieley, Harolyn Blackwell, Jim Dale, Andrea Martin, and Brent Barrett; Oklahoma! (2002 revival) starring Patrick Wilson, Shuler Hensley, Andrea Martin, and more; Wicked (2003) starring Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Norbert Leo Butz, Joel Grey, Carole Shelley, Michelle Federer, Christopher Fitzgerald, and William Youmans, plus many more!

What show is currently at the Gershwin Theatre?

Wicked premiered at the Gershwin in October 2003, and has been playing the theatre ever since! Based on Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the musical features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman.

The original cast featured Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Galinda, Joel Grey as the Wizard, Norbert Leo Butz as Fiyero, Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible, Michelle Federer as Nessarose, Christopher Fitzgerald as Boq, and William Youmans as Doctor Dillamond. Wicked was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2004, including Best Musical; Book; Orchestrations; Original Score; Choreography; Costume Design; Lighting Design; Scenic Design, and Best Actress for both Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. Menzel won Best Actress, and the show won Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design. The original Broadway cast recording also received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

Wicked set the box office record for the Gershwin Theatre, grossing $3,411,819 over nine performances for the week ending December 30, 2018. Wicked is currently the 5th longest running show on Broadway, between Cats at number 4, and Les Miserables at number 6.

What is The Theater Hall of Fame?

The theater hall of fame, located inside the Gershwin Theatre, was founded in 1970 by Earl Blackwell, James M. Nederlander, Gerard Oestreicher and L. Arnold Weissberger to honor Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater. There are 10 categories and over 50 nominees from which to vote, and to be eligible for induction, the theater professional must have given 25 years distinguished service to the American Theater and have at least five major production credits on Broadway. The inductees are voted upon by over 275 members of the Theater Hall of Fame and American drama critics.

Members of the hall of fame include Andre De Shields, Donna McKechnie, Adele Astaire, Fred Astaire, Brooks Atkinson, Lauren Bacall, Ellen Burstyn
Richard Burton, Betty Buckley, Paddy Chayefsky, Barbara Cook, Anton Chekhov, Stephen Flaherty, Henry Fonda, Lynn Fontanne, Paul Gemignani, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Michael Kidd, Madeline Kahn, Audra McDonald, Sir Ian McKelle, Ethel Merman, David Merrick, Arthur Miller, Liza Minnelli, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chita Rivera and hundreds more.