219 West 48th StreetNew York, NY
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Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
Senior Vice President, Jujamcyn Theaters
Opened in 1921 as the Ritz, the Walter Kerr Theatre was designed by Herbert J. Krapp. It was built by the Shuberts as a sister theatre to their Ambassador Theatre on West 49th Street and constructed in a record sixty-six days.
The interior featured an Italian Renaissance style with gold leaf and Italian scrollwork. Following decades of use as a broadcast studio and cinema, Jujamcyn Theaters purchased the theater in 1981 and completed a full restoration of the house in 1990. That same year, the theater was renamed the Walter Kerr in honor of the Pulitzer Prize–winning drama critic for the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. The inaugural production under the new name was August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Other Tony Award–winning productions including Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Proof, and Clybourne Park have graced its stages.
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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