This Month, the Imperial Theatre Turns 100

This post was originally published on Playbill - Features

Written by: Margaret Hall

Special Features

This Month, the Imperial Theatre Turns 100!

Did you know the Imperial is one of the few Broadway theatre that has never been renamed?

100 years ago, Broadway’s Christmas wish came true with the opening of the illustrious Imperial Theatre. Situated on 45th Street in the heart of the theatre district, the theatre was the 50th to be developed by the Shubert Brothers in New York. In its hundred years of operation, it has become one of the premiere musical theatre houses.

Designed by the premier theatre architect Herbert J Krapp, the Imperial features a simple buff colored brick facade, which serves as an effective blank canvas for colorful marquee advertising. The interior, however, befits its royal title, with a richly textured russet and cream neoclassical lobby and a burgundy and gold auditorium. The theatre features detailed plaster and filigree work throughout, and several classical scenes ornament passageways.

Opening on December 25, 1923, the Imperial is one of the few Broadway theatres to never be renamed. Did you know, however, that the Imperial was actually the second intended name for the space? As the first production in the space was Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical comedy Mary Jane McKane, the Hammerstein family had lobbied for the theatre to be named after their patriarch impresario, Oscar Hammerstein I. Lee Shubert had rejected the deal, preferring to name the theatre after a regal concept rather than an individual. Had the deal gone through, the Hammerstein would have become neighbors with the Richard Rodgers after the 46th Street Theatre was renamed in 1990. Talk about what could have been….

Since its opening, the Imperial has been an in demand theatre for musicals, with the original productions of On Your Toes, Annie Get Your Gun, The Most Happy Fella, Gypsy, Oliver!, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Pippin, Dreamgirls, and Les Misérables all finding success with the Imperial as their Broadway home.

The theatre has also hosted many beloved plays, including two Pulitzer winners: George Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You and Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County. Beginning March 2024, the legendary theatre will welcome its 101st production, the new musical Water For Elephants.

The next time you visit the Imperial, make sure to arrive with plenty of time to experience her beauty before taking your seat. One hundred years on, she truly is a crown jewel of Broadway.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *