242 West 45th StreetNew York, NY
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Architectural Historian, Columbia University
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
President and Co-CEO, Schubert Organization
Designed by Herbert J. Krapp for the Chanin Brothers, the Royale Theatre was unusual for its eclectic, romantic style that Krapp and the Chanins called Spanish modern.
Built in 1927 along with the Majestic, the Golden, and the Hotel Lincoln (now the Milford Plaza Hotel), the cluster completed the blocks on 44th and 45th Streets between Broadway and 7th Avenue, creating the densest concentration of legitimate theaters in New York City. In 2005, the Royale was renamed the Bernard B. Jacobs after the longtime president of the Shubert Organization. The lavish interior was designed by Roman Melzer, an architect for Czar Nicholas II in Russia who came to America and worked for the Chanins. Melzer hired Hungarian artist Willy Pogany to create a series of murals entitled "Spanish Lovers" for the interior of the theater. Once completed, the Chanins gave artistic control to the Shuberts, who programmed it with a variety of operettas, musicals, and dramas. Diamond Lil, written by and starring Mae West, was the first major hit for the theater in 1928 with 176 performances.
Herbert J. Krapp was the most prolific theater designer on Broadway; he was the architect for fifteen of the remaining Broadway theaters. Krapp studied at Cooper Union and started his career at Herts & Tallant, where he met the Shubert brothers.
Krapp became the Shubert brothers’ house architect and designed twelve theaters for them. He also designed six theaters for the Chanin brothers. Krapp was famous for his ability to work with low budgets and small or awkward plots of land. For example, Krapp designed a diagonal floor plan for the Ambassador Theatre to fit it into an awkward space.
He innovated the use of stadium seating, first seen in the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Krapp often used most of his budget on the interiors of his theaters. While he left the exteriors relatively bare, he used elaborate brickwork to add visual interest for a small cost. Examples of this brickwork can be seen on the exteriors of the Broadhurst and the Gerald Schoenfeld Theaters. Krapp's career as a theater designer ended with the bust of the theater boom during the Depression. He transitioned to industrial design and became a building assessor for New York City. He also continued to work with the Shuberts until 1963 as the supervisor of existing venue maintenance and renovations.
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