One of my favorite features in Times Square is the map of Broadway theaters. It’s a wonderful New York City instance of existing without explanation. In an area of New York dedicated to tourism, everything has an explanation, a plaque, or a renowned brand that is easily recognizable. Not this, however. From looking at it you can tell it’s a map and across the granite representing Broadway is a URL for spotlightonbroadway.com, however it does not announce to the unknowing eye what it is a map of. This is something I really respect about the map. For those who need it, and know what it is, it’s there, for everyone else it’s another fun thing in Times Square to get a picture of. As I work on Duffy Square most often, I am often asked if I know where the ________ Theater is. While I’m pretty good at knowing what show is where, I don’t generally know the names of the theater that correspond with the accompanying show. At my feet is a handy dandy map to help them with. I was examining this granite guide the other day and realized there were a few theaters I knew nothing about. I didn’t recognize the theater name, or the person attached to the name, and I felt this was a negative on my part, so I decided to do some research and learn more about those I didn’t know enough about.
The first one I didn’t recognize immediately was the Vivian Beaumont Theater. I figured out which theater it was by its place on the map, because while every other Broadway theater is in the Theater District, the Vivian Beaumont is a ways up on 65th street. This gave me the clue that the Vivian Beaumont was the name of the Broadway Theater housed within Lincoln Center. I myself loved the Tony Award-Winning production of South Pacific mounted by Lincoln Center within the Beaumont. However I was never aware of the name or history of the theater space. The theater was built in 1965 and named for New York City philanthropist Vivian Beaumont Allen who put up a large portion of the cost to build a theater in the hope of Lincoln Center hosting a permanent repertory company. Sadly, Mrs. Allen died in 1962 and never saw the space open to the public. The space was designed by celebrated Broadway set designer Jo Mielziner and architect Eero Saarinen. By having a theatre designer as part of the architecture team, the space was built with sets and audiences in mind, differing from traditional theaters by utilizing stadium seating as well as a thrust stage configuration. In my opinion, it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing theaters I’ve been to on Broadway.
In an increasingly commercialized field, Lincoln Center continuously mounts productions of high artistic value. Highly touted musicals such as The Light in the Piazza, Parade, and The Frogs came to life through the support of Lincoln Center. These shows were critically acclaimed, and nominated for many Tony Awards, but were not considered commercial successes. War Horse, the highly acclaimed London play transferred to Broadway at the Beaumont, and played for 718 performances. The play also spawned the successful Stephen Spielberg directed film adaptation. Most recently the Tony Shaloub led play Act One about playwright Moss Hart ran in the Beaumont, receiving five Tony Award nominations and receiving Best Scenic Design of a play for designer Beowulf Boritt. The most successful production to date, however, was the aforementioned revival of South Pacific starring Kelli O’Hara and Paulo Szot, a production that moved me deeply, and has been lauded as one of the best revivals of all time, and one of Lincoln Center’s finest productions. It won seven of the eleven Tony Awards it was nominated for, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Paulo Szot), and Best Direction of a Musical (Bartlett Sher). Next January, the Beaumont will be home to the new revival of The King and I starring Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanbe. If considering seeing a Broadway show, it’s a safe bet that anything playing at the Beaumont is of high caliber.
There are two other theater spaces at Lincoln Center besides the Vivian Beaumont. On the roof is the Claire Tow Theater known for new works, and is a great way to see inexpensive theater from emerging playwrights. On the bottom floor of the building is the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, which is a smaller space offering off-broadway plays and musicals. No matter which of the three theaters you see, you’re guaranteed a great show.