Mon, 13 February 2017

Hudson Theatre in New York Reopens as Broadway's 41st Theatre

The newly restored Hudson Theatre opened its doors last week, officially becoming Broadways 41st theatre.

The historic site, at 139-141 West 44th Street in the heart of the Theatre District in Times Square, is now operated by Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) in association with Millennium Hotels & Resorts.

The opening was marked with a special ribbon cutting ceremony led by Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford, the stars of the upcoming Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, which is the first production to play the Hudson in nearly fifty years.

 Gyllenhaal and Ashford were joined at the celebration by Millennium Hotels Chairman Kwek Leng Beng and New York City First Deputy Commissioner of The Mayors Office of Media and Entertainment Kai Falkenberg.

Chairman of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Kwek Leng Beng (second from right) was joined by Commissioner of The Mayors Office of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford, Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and General Manager of Hudson Theatre Eric Paris in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Gyllenhaal and Ashford are the stars of the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George.

Millennium Hotels Chairman Kwek Leng Beng said, "The Hudson Theatre is one of the great historic landmarks in New York City and we have always been proud of this gem asset in the Millennium & Copthorne Hotel Group. Meeting the founder of ATG Sir Panter in 2014, with shared passion for theatre and art, a journey of restoring this grand dame began. After an 18 months extensive restoration, we are so excited with the rebirth of Hudson Theatre. With continuing commitment to this revival, Mark Cornell, CEO of ATG and his team together with Millennium Hotels around the globe, we look forward to welcome audiences to enjoy premier shows and celebrate the experiences with producers, directors, actors, and creative individuals from great theatre and entertainment."

Hudson Theatre's first production, Cousin Kate starring Ethel Barrymore, took place on 19 October 1903, making it the oldest operational Broadway theatre.

In 1912, the Hudsons original owner, Henry B. Harris, and his wife Renee embarked on the RMS Titanic where Henry met his fate. Mrs. Harris survived, returning to New York where she took over operations of Hudson and became the first female producer on Broadway. During her tenure, numerous artists graced the stage including Louis Armstrong, George M. Cohen, Douglas Fairbanks, Helen Hayes, William Holden, Lena Horne, and Alfred Lunt, as well as world premieres of works by George M. Cohen, George Bernard Shaw, and Henrik Ibsen. Mrs. Harris lost ownership of the theatre following the Great Depression, with CBS Radio operating the venue in the mid-thirties and forties before returning as a legitimate theatre.

In 1950, NBC purchased Hudson Theatre and premiered the first nationwide broadcasts of The Price Is Right and The Tonight Show, then hosted by Steve Allen. The Tonight Show continued to be filmed at Hudson Theatre when Jack Paar took over as the host. The broadcast eventually became The Jack Paar Show before moving to Rockefeller Center in the summer of 1957. While at Hudson, The Tonight Show hosted a slew of guests early in their careers including Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Elvis Presley, and Barbra Streisand in her first televised performance.

Hudson Theatre briefly re-opened as a legitimate theatre from 1960 to 1968, where it played home to the award-winning production of Lillian Hellmans Toys in the Attic starring Jason Robards Jr. and Maureen Stapleton, as well as other productions starring Burt Reynolds and Jane Fonda.

 In the late sixties, Hudson was operated as a burlesque theatre and a motion picture house where films of all types were played. The theatre lay vacant for several years in the seventies, before a rock promoter re-opened it as the Savoy Rock Club.

 Following several handovers, Hudson Theatre was eventually sold to Millennium Hotels who did a large-scale renovation to the venue in 2005, during which the Tiffany Mosaics along the proscenium, boxes, dress circle, and balcony ledges were discovered. Millennium used the theatre as a rental space for special events, parties, weddings, and conferences.

In 2014, Millenniums Chairman Kwek met with ATG founder Sir Howard Panter where the two exchanged their love for theatre and art, and the vision of bringing one of the oldest Broadway theatres back to life again. An official partnership between Millennium Hotels and ATG ensued to give life back to Hudson Theatre as a top-class theatre venue with much of its original beauty and design restored in addition to introducing new and upgraded theatrical systems and facilities.

In 1987, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated both the exterior and interior of Hudson Theatre as a historic landmark and in December of 2016, the Hudson Theatre became a nationally registered landmark building.

Sunday in the Park with George will play a strictly limited 10-week engagement. Directed by Sarna Lapine, the play will open on Thursday, 23 February and will continue through Sunday, 23 April.

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