249 West 45th StreetNew York, NY
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Architectural Historian, Columbia University
Director / Choreographer
Designed by Herbert J. Krapp, Broadway’s most prolific architect, the Imperial was the fiftieth theater built by the Shubert Organization in the New York area.
Krapp designed fifteen of the forty remaining Broadway theaters, more than any other architect. The theater is located on 46th Street but the Shuberts wanted an entrance on 45th Street; because Shubert Alley runs between 44th and 45th Streets and they already operated several other theaters on 45th Street, the Imperial was designed with a narrow entrance to meet this requirement.
The Imperial’s rectangular auditorium is wider than it is deep, which creates an intimacy between the audience and performers. In its early years, the Imperial was home to string of hits including many musicals by Rogers and Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. In more recent decades it has presented many Tony Award–winning productions including Fiddler on the Roof, Pippin, Dreamgirls, and Billy Elliot.
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.
© Joan Marcus
Vandamm Studio © Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
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