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!

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At Liberty to Eat Wings

The Liberty Theater, pre (2009) and post (2011) -op

It was 2003 when British director Deborah Warner first heard of the plans to “renovate” the decaying Liberty Theater on 42nd Street. That gloriously decrepit space––which had played crepuscular host to Warner’s 1996 presentation of TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land”––was to be converted (…wait for it…) into a Cipriani restaurant. Oh joy! At the time, Warner told the Grey Lady, “This is a potential scandal. You [New Yorkers] are very bad. Your lack of preservation is outrageous. You will kick yourself in 10 years. We need these theaters for our souls.”

Well, it’s almost been a decade, so let the kicking begin. While the 2003 deal with Cipriani didn’t work out (thank God––it would’ve castrated the theater of its balconies), that most illustrious of restaurant chains, BBQ, has just opened its doors in this former Broadway house. I recently paid a visit to this newly-opened architectural “improvement” and snapped a few pictures. Compare the new, chipper decor with the eerie beauty I was lucky enough to see (and photograph) in 2009.

 

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An Adjustment on the Deuce

The premise behind “The Adjustment Bureau” is simple and delicious: At each human’s birth, a supreme, omniscient “chairman” creates a script for his or her life. As people grow, the chairman helps turn these prescribed narratives into reality with little nudges, or “adjustments:” inconspicuous, seemingly random blips—lost keys, forgotten appointments—that ultimately put people on the “right” path. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt oh-so-stylishly lead the way through this delightfully glossy, children’s book fantasy kind of grown-up blockbuster.

Exiting the AMC Empire on West 42nd Street, where “Bureau” is playing, I couldn’t help but wish for a few “adjustments” in that theater’s exceptional history. Once a beautiful, legitimate playhouse, it followed Times Square into general decay and porno squalor. Under the jurisdiction of The New 42nd Street Street, Inc., the Empire missed the world-class renovations sported by several of its Deuce brethren, and now serves as the entrance to AMC’s monster movie complex. (This remarkable civic tale gets the royal treatment in Anthony Bianco’s pitch-perfect book, “Ghosts of 42nd Street.”)

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