Tag Archives: theatre history

A Shakespeare Christmas on Broadway

Dear Friends,

As we head into this last weekend before Christmas, we are reminded of Shakespeare’s comedy, Twelfth Night, involving twins Viola and Sebastian who are separated in a shipwreck. In the spirit of Epiphany (or the Twelfth Night of Christmas), Viola disguises herself as a man, falls in love with Count Orsino, has Lady Olivia fall in love with her in disguise, and hilarity ensues.

We presented the Twelfth Night on Broadway the Winter Season of 1940-41 at the St. James Theatre starring Helen Hayes and Maurice Evans. It was 129 performances of Shakespeare comedic bliss!

 

 

It’s hard to imagine that was 78 years ago! Time surely flies when you’re having fun in the theatre!

Merry Christmas and warm wishes for a happy holiday season!
Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Tickets Flourishing

Dear Friends,

It’s time for our yearly talk about ticket prices on Broadway.

Our favorite comparison, which we remember well, is when the Broadway ticket prices skyrocketed from $4.80 to $5.75. Can you believe that the producers were terribly worried that Broadway would crumble at that sharp increase in ticket prices!!!!

At any rate, those $5.75 tickets would cost $80.68 today (based on the inflation rate). This $80.86 price is two-thirds of the current ticket price, which seems to be holding steady at $125.00 per ticket.

We find it interesting that in those days we felt that Broadway might come to an end because there were only so many seats in a theatre, whereas most other goods and services could expand to meet the higher demand.

All our worries were unfounded because Broadway is flourishing, both in terms of average ticket price and number of viewers going to shows. Who knew?!?

And, Hurray!

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Actors’ Strike of 1919

Dear Friends,

Today we’d like to tell you about an exciting Theatre Guild happening that took place on Broadway in 1919.

Actors’ Equity Association was formed by Broadway actors in 1913. After they were formed, they started approaching theatrical producers  to arrange contracts for their actors with each of them. The producers and Equity were not able to come to an agreement–with one notable exception–and in 1919 the Broadway actors decided to strike.

Happily The Theatre Guild was that one notable exception who chose to recognize Actors’ Equity and agree to a contract. The result was that The Theatre Guild was the only producer with a play running on Broadway during the strike.

The play was John Ferguson running at the Fulton Theatre on 46th Street, and it became a huge sell-out lasting for six months!

According to my father, Lawrence, “I was looking for a play for us to produce and I picked a book off the shelf—little thinking that I held the future of the new Theatre Guild in my hand! It was just the play we were looking for! My fellow Board members were all as excited about the play as I was and we decided to produce it at once.”

Wasn’t it fortuitous that The Guild had a sensible reaction to actors on Broadway wanting to have a union, and what a happy result!

Best wishes,
Philip & Marilyn Langner

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A Match Made in Music

Dear Friends,

Today we are writing you about Carousel, which is coming back to Broadway with previews starting February 28th.

Carousel has a fascinating history.

In about 1940, the Theatre Guild decided it would like to make a musical from the play it had previously produced, called Green Grow the Lilacs. They invited Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to write the musical which became, as you know, Oklahoma!.
With the glorious success of Oklahoma!, The Guild wanted Richard and Oscar to write another musical. The Guild examined the previous 50-60 plays it had produced on Broadway. Ultimately, a play The Guild presented in 1922, Liliom by famed Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár, was chosen.

The musical, now called Carousel, was acclaimed everywhere and The Guild had another musical hit!

After Carousel, Richard and Oscar wrote one more musical, Allegro, for The Guild, but it was not as well received as Oklahoma! and Carousel. Richard and Oscar were great friends of ours, as were their children. I (Philip) grew up with Mary Rodgers, who was a great long-time friend.

We are so delighted that Carousel, which is being produced by Scott Rudin and Roy Furman, is being presented again next month at the Imperial Theatre. To purchase tickets, click here. It’s a great show!

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

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Journey From A Play To A Musical, Part 1

Dear Friends,

Over the holidays, we came across the French movie Liliom on television. The movie was based on the play written by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár in 1909.

Of course, Liliom was not unfamiliar to us—The Theatre Guild brought the play to Broadway in 1921 and in 1945 convinced Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to turn it into a musical, with a notable name change: Carousel.

Carousel has been on our minds lately, as it is coming back to Broadway starring Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, and Renée Fleming and directed by Jack O’Brien. Previews begin next month (February 28th) and the musical opens on April 12th.

Carousel

We are so very excited at its return to Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on 45th Street—and we cannot wait to see it!

Tickets are now on sale, which can be purchased in person at the Imperial (249 W. 45th Street) or clicking here.

Stay tuned next week for more history behind the creating of Carousel!

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

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Giving Thanks.

thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

This being Thanksgiving week, we are thinking about thanks in the theatre world.

We always felt that the theatre would suffer—and perhaps come to an end—because it is not a mass-production enterprise.  Therefore, it cannot equal automobiles, electric lights, and all sorts of items in our daily lives that are mass-produced by machines.

We have previously told you that in 1943, when we brought Oklahoma! to Broadway, Orchestra tickets were $5.75 each, the equivalent to $81.53 today.  Since currently  Broadway musical tickets are averaging $125.00, it is clear that ticket prices have gone up faster than inflation—although only somewhat faster!

The good news is that all 40 Broadway theatres currently have plays running or will be opening new plays this Spring.  This make us very happy because the fact that plays are not mass-produced has not yet ended the theatre!

We are happy and giving thanks this week to all of those who work hard to make the theatre the success that it continues to be!

Best regards and Happy Thanksgiving!
Philip and Marilyn

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Carousel

Dear Friends,

Hurray!  Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel is coming back to Broadway!

The Theatre Guild originally produced this play on Broadway in 1945–it was the second musical Rodgers & Hammerstein had written for The Theatre Guild.

Carousel was adapted from the play, Liliom, which The Theatre Guild had produced on Broadway in 1921. In some ways we love it even more than Oklahoma! (the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Theatre Guild produced) because the love story in Carousel is so fantastic!
Carousel
We think you will love seeing Carousel (again?) because it has so much to offer!  It will be playing at the Imperial Theatre (249 W. 45th Street). Previews begin February 28, 2018 and it opens April 12, 2018.  To learn more and purchase tickets, click here.

Best regards,
Philip and Marilyn

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Final Chance!

Dear Friends,

Just a reminder that Prince of Broadway will be closing its limited run in only 12 more performances–with its final performance on 10/29/2017!

It showcases the life and times of our dear family friend, Harold Prince, including some of his greatest productions, like:

West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Evita, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, and The Phantom of the Opera to name a few!

You definitely do not want to miss out on this spectacular show!  Click here for your last chance at tickets!
prince of bway 2
Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

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Theatre History

Hello Friends!

We are very pleased today because Cindy Adams, Page Six writer for the New York Post, was writing an article about Theatre History in the wake of last night’s Tony Awards .

Lo and behold! The Theatre Guild got a nod from Ms. Adams:

1918. Formation of the Theatre Guild. Also, Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” That’s 99 years before the Golden’s current occupants grabbed all those nominations for “Part 2.”

Click here for the full article.

99 years!  It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a century—and we are very excited about our 100th Anniversary, as there may well be a new commemorative postage stamp similar to the one to mark the 50th Anniversary of our musical Oklahoma!.

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Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Turning A Profit, Jersey Style

Dear Friends,

Several weeks ago, we were telling you about the joys of investing in plays and musicals even though statistically few turn an actual profit (click here to read it again!).

Today we wanted to share with you news about another Broadway hit that did just that: made a profit!  While the production company hasn’t released actual numbers yet, the investors of Jersey Boys (which closed last Saturday, January 14th) reported earning 22 times their initial investment over the last 12 years.

According to the New York Times:

“Jersey Boys” is in some ways an example of how Broadway shows are financed: The industry is rooted in New York, but many plays and musicals have financial backers who live around the world — theater enthusiasts with an appetite for risk and a taste for show business.

jersey-boys

Albeit opening to mixed reviews in 2005, Jersey Boys persevered, won the Tony in 2006 for Best New Musical, and went on to become the 12th longest running play on Broadway to date.

Click here for the full New York Times article on Jersey Boys and their investors.

It could happen to all of us—all we need is a hit!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn Langner

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