230 West 49th StreetNew York, NY
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Architectural Historian, Columbia University
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
Bill T. Jones
Senior Vice President, Jujamcyn Theaters
For tickets & showtimes,visit www.broadway.org
Originally named the Forrest Theatre after Edwin Forrest, the first American-born Broadway star, it was the first to combine a theater with a hotel.
At the time it was built, in 1925, there were already 192 playhouses and 548 motion picture houses competing for patrons. The Shuberts tried to attract audiences with promotions such as free coffee, cigarettes, and perfume as well as the free services of silhouette artists and mind readers. Mostly due to the bar in the Forrest Hotel that was accessed through the orchestra, the theater was one of the few to survive the Depression. Ultimately it was auctioned in 1934 and leased to the producers of Tobacco Road, a provocative Depression-era play that was performed until 1941, making it the longest running play on Broadway at the time. Designed by Herbert J. Krapp, it was the first theater to use steel frame construction, which had only previously been used for skyscrapers and large apartment buildings. Krapp installed the most up-to-date stage curtain as well as an innovative system for moving stage scenery with electricity. One of Krapp’s most ornate theaters, the interior was adorned with decorative plasterwork. In 1953 theater was renamed the Eugene O’Neill; it was, the first theater to be named after a playwright. In the late 1960s Neil Simon bought the theater and presented seven of his plays there. In 1982 the Jujamcyn Company bought it with the goal of presenting new American work and succeeded with such plays as M. Butterfly, Spring Awakening, and The Book of Mormon.
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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