I Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 42: The Times Square Theater

DSC03648I recently got a super cool peek inside the Times Square Theater, the last of eight houses on 42nd Street to see rehabilitation since city/state seizure (and Disney) happened in the 1990s. Theater architecture geeks will recall that the seven other spaces on the Deuce have met a variety of ends, some as Broadway theaters, some as converted commercial spaces, but that all of them remain preserved in some essential way – PRAISE BE!

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The Times Square is poised for something between legitimacy and conversion: Currently under construction, it’s set to house something called BROADWAY 4D. Described as “a 3D, film-enhanced show incorporating in-theater special effects,” it will showcase “songs from Broadway musicals by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Weber” to be performed by “stars of Hollywood and the Great White Way.” (All this from the Post –– read more HERE.) As for that fourth dimension, there will also be “scents, climatic changes and extravagant sound.” Oh my!

Before major construction got underway, I snapped some pictures of the wonderful space. Scaffolding mars the view in a major way, but use your imagination so see beyond the metal rods to a house that vibrates with history, spirit, and capital-B BROADWAY!

Here’s a view of the theater from the south side of 42nd Street:

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You’re probably under the mistaken impression that you saw Spider-Man at the Times Square –– the theater’s long, beautifully columned exterior sits adjacent to the small façade sported by the Foxwoods (recently home to Spidey and Co.). But the Foxwoods actually sits on 43rd Street; its 42nd Street entrance is really just a hallway that extends halfway up the block where theater proper lives. The Times Square fits cozily into the elbow created by this “neck” entrance. See my hideous, completely not-to-scale drawing if you’re confused.

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But why stare at maps when there are real-life gems to see? LET’S GO!

First, check out the wonderful old stage space and the maw of the proscenium, home to the original productions of Noel Coward’s Private Lives and the Gershwins’ Strike Up the Band…

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… but be careful not to fall into the trap space!

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Back in the day, harried chorus girls scampered their way through this door up to their dressing rooms…

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… and beautiful sets hung in this gaping fly space.

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Here’s a view from the stage, out at the house. JAZZ HANDS!

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A wider view from house right of the orchestra…

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Anxious playwrights — now long gone — paced here, at the back of the house…

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More delights await upstairs…

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… in the mezz!

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Lift a small window on the theater’s second level, and you get a closer look at the columns on the facade.

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Back downstairs, through the rear-house exit…

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…is the facade. That floorspace in the right of the shot is actually 42nd Street sidewalk.

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And there you have it. She’s certainly in need of some serious work, but it’s exciting that the ongoing repairs are in service of making the space a theater and not, y’know, a Burger King. (No joke there: The chain was one of several… shall we say interesting tenants… that expressed interest in the Times Square –– read about that saga HERE.)

Fare you, well, Times Square Theater, and we’ll see you on the other side!

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Onstage at the Times Square Theater

READ MORE ABOUT OLD THEATERS ON 42ND STREET!
– Eat wings at the old LIBERTY THEATER — READ! READ! READ!
– The AMC is actually an OLD BROADWAY THEATER — READ! READ! READ!

About these ads

Telsey + Companies

SPOTTED! If you didn’t catch him on Smash, don’t fear: mega casting director Bernie Telsey is featured in this bank ad…

Bernard Telsey bank ad
Let him be your star!

Animal Drama

Members of the animal kingdom may pop up occasionally in shows (here’s looking at you, Annie) but these appearances are usually simple and little more than “awwww”-inducing.

And yet! Trevor (by Nick Jones at Lesser America/TFNC) takes a different tack, placing a chimpanzee dead center of its wild story. How exactly is this managed? By casting a human in the part. (Diversity advocates Animal Equity are surely up in arms about the decision.)

Picture 11Actor Steven Boyer inhabits the primate with little more than a waddle and gimp arms. Costume designer Elizabeth Barrett Groth continues with the minimalist approach, clothing Boyer not in fur but a polo and overalls. The suggestion of animal-ness rather a declaration of it avoids prosthetics and leaves much of the imaginative work to the audience.

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The recent Bengal Tiger at the Bagdhad Zoo functioned similarly: As the titular tiger of this Broadway show, Robin Williams looked basically human at first glance; it was only through the text, Williams’s performance, and a scraggly beard that the tiger-ness shone through. (Oh yeah—and the title.)

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

But the 2005 Broadway revival of Seascape took the opposite approach, outfitting its lizards in costumes that aimed for intense verisimilitude.

Seascape Broadway revival

Which do you think is the more effective approach? And what do you make of other tactics for depicting animals onstage, like the puppetry used in War Horse or The Lion King? Inscribe below!

Trevor photos by Hunter Canning

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Favorite Moment: All in the Timing

All in the TimingWhere was the last place you witnessed a gigantic baker birthing loaves of bread?

At All in the Timing, that’s where.

What you see above is the G-rated version of what actually goes on in one segment—an Einstein on the Beach satire—of this crazy, whakkadoodle show. Modesty standards prevent me from putting up a picture of the yeasty act of life-making… but suffice it to say that each bread-child comes about thanks to… well… a rolling pin.

Snaps all around for David Ives and Walter Bobbie, who’ve given me the resources to answer every child who asks, “when does bread come from?”

Not the stork, little one, not the stork…

photo by James Leynse

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TheaTour!: The Empire Garden Restaurant

If you’re like me, old, repurposed theaters both thrill and dismay you. On the one hand, it’s exciting to see something familiar in a surprising light (how will they use that mezzanine?!); on the other, it’s always a bit sad to see the breeding grounds of art turned into a deli or a shoe store.

Empire Garden Restaurant, Globe Theater, Boston, Chinatown, theatre architecture, converted theater old theater

That melancholic mixture—half smile, half tear—arrives full bore at the Empire Garden Restaurant in Boston. Known in legitimacy as the Globe Theater or as Loew’s Globe Theater, the EGR successfully retains much of its theatrical charm, making a hell of a backdrop for dim sum. Still… it makes a hell of a backdrop for dim sum. Enough said.

Dipping under its deep red marquee, a small, uneventful lobby takes you to a TV-studded, classical stairway.

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Another lobby waits at the top…

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… and snif snif—you’re in dim sum land!

Make sure to mind the carts as you enter the gorgeous seating area. (Apparently the panels in the proscenium open up to reveal another dining area, opened for weddings and such.)

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After ordering, run on up to that proscenium and take in the plaster.

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Just don’t think too hard about the strange collision of Eastern and Western art behind you!

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The entire restaurant, the owner explained to me, sits one floor level above what would’ve been the orchestra section. (As if the stairs weren’t enough of a giveaway, the proscenium’s legs tell the original story: They’re almost comically short.)

But that original ground level grants no hint of its glitzy, lavish past. Today, it’s an Asian foods market.

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So: Yes, it’s cool to have your lunch in such gilded splendor. Who doesn’t want a little cherub watching as you eat pork dumplings?

But it’s also a bit sacrilegious, isn’t it? Knawing your way around a temple of theater?

Forgive us, Bacchus, as we slurp and chew.

I Smell a New Season…

There are few sights quite so tantalizing as that of a Broadway load-in…

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Are you salivating yet?

BRING IT ON, BABY! 2013 GONNA REPRESENT!

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LIKE WHAT YOU SEE? YOU MIGHT ENJOY…
– The 2012 Spring Season: Start Your Engines
– Something’s Coming
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Roundabout Does a Roundabout

I’m pretty much definitely the only person who finds this interesting (am I? am I?), but it seems that the Roundabout Theatre Company is doing a bit of rebranding. Witness the swanky new poster pasted on 44th Street…

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Cool, right? It feels current, stylish, casually affluent. The abstract-y comedy/drama masks, the mod coloring, the artful nod to diversity, the focus on YOU (“exposing you,” “introducing you,” “it’s about you”)–it’s a far cry from the more traditional lettering more commonly associated with this reputable, classics-heavy company:

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Does this advertising shift herald a new programming focus?

Time shall tell…

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TheaTour!: The Detroit Masonic Temple

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Fun fact: Not all Masonic temples house self-flagelating albino monks or creepy, cloaked knights. (Thanks, DaVinci Code and Eyes Wide Shut for that one.) As I found out in Detroit—on tour with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-–some such temples are pretty normal, pretty cool theaters. (As for the above photos, yes, that’s a prop milk jug. Such are the trappings of children’s theater.)

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Our particular haunt sported some religious-y flying buttresses and a Gothic, arched ceiling. But the rest of the digs were purely secular. Some good, blood-red “legs” (as they’re called in the biz) framed our singing and dancing…

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… and a set of dainty ropes started their trip to the fly tower, ready to open vents in case of fire.

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More vintage treasures were to be found here…

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and here…

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… but pity the actor forced to rely on this set of floor directions:

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After all, if they directed him here, to the American Horror Story-style loading dock, who knows what could happen to him?

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Even worse, how could he defend himself in the elevator from these terrifying miscreants?

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Hmm… maybe “Masonic Temples” aren’t so benign after all…

Memory, Back Turned to Moonlight… and Sunlight

You never know what your dad’s going to find digging through the attic…

cats vintage ticket

Cats had opened some two months prior, on October 7th.

If this ticket could talk… … or meow…

Hamlet Pun Fun

(Spotted in Toronto’s historic district.)

TheaTour!: Stephens Auditorium

Can architecture be both modern and primal? Stephens Auditorium at the Iowa State Center, a recent stop of mine, argues yes! it can! For proof, first examine the jagged, toothlike boxes (above) than hang over the vast orchestra (below).

They’re equal parts Modernism and tribalism, reason and fury, security and danger, violent, giant spears put to contemporary use. Looking at them, I think of mod, Le Corbusier-like starchitects, but also of ancient, primitive South American clans. Quite the coupling, eh?

This odd dance of eras plays out all over the space, from the cavern of the house…

… to the starship-meets-temple exterior.

It’s even present in the exquisite patterns of béton brut (“raw concrete”) that tattoo the building’s in- and exteriors. (Béton brut is a gorgeous style in which the imprints of wooden, concrete molds are left intact rather than smoothed over.) It literally collides old world and new, embossing the present with the past.


Of course, down in the dressing rooms all that matters is makeup and props and water bottles… concerns, I might add, surely shared by those ritualistic, ancient tribespeople.

Past and present… not so separate after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something’s Coming…

Get excited — here comes the new season!!! 45th Street is chock full of new marquees:

From left, there’s the Booth (Other Desert Cities), the Schoenfeld (Bonnie and Clyde), the Jacobs (The Mountaintop), and the Golden (Seminar). Across the street, not in view, is the Music Box (Private Lives).

BRING IT ON!

High Line Theatrics

The High Line Park (photo by Iwan Baan, thehighline.org)

 

Ticket prices got you down? Head to the High Line above 10th Ave for a free show where New York herself is the star. This park, a repurposed elevated track, is an exercise in “city as theater:” By framing and focusing our otherwise scattered attention, the High Line reveals New York as the glittery, every-changing diva she really is. Walking along this shrubbery promenade, you stop, breathe, and really see where you are. Is this not the highest task of art? [Read more...]

So Not True

Slightly off-topic, yes, but STILL…

“The Magazine the Stars Trust”? Sure…

Found in Times Square


Imagine it:

“White Teenager to the deck, White Teenager to the deck.”
“I have a paycheck here for White Teenager.”
“I feel like I’ve really excavated the inner life of White Teenager.”

Yes, “Book of Mormon” is a Hit…

… but just how big of a hit?

To find out, take a glance at the Eugene O’Neill’s marquee.  In the grand tradition of “Cats” (those yellow eyes!), “Phantom” (that mask!) and “Merchant” (Pacino!), words have given way to a single, iconic image– in this case, a shiny doorknob. Tickets cost  $8,000,000, it’s “the best musical of the century,” there aren’t seats until 2020, but it’s the marquee, I think, that says it all.

The demand for this (admittedly fun) show is so insane, the brand so instantly identifiable, that titles are superfluous. Now that’s what I call a hit.

Are those South Park guys the new Andrew Lloyd Webber?

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