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Built in 1910 as the Globe and renamed the Lunt-Fontanne in 1958 in honor of the famed acting couple, this handsome theatre is now owned by the Nederlander Organization.
The house’s most recent productions have been Titanic; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Three Sisters; Hello, Dolly!; Comedy Tonight; Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public; Ain’t Broadway Grand; Catskills on Broadway; Sting in 3 Penny Opera; Gospel at Colonus; Uptown...It’s Hot!; Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Private Lives; Sophisticated Ladies; Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan; The Rothschilds with Tony Awards for Hal Linden and Keene Curtis; and a series of revivals of hit musicals: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Phil Silvers (1972); The Pajama Game (1973); My Fair Lady (from the St. James Theatre); and Carol Channing back again in Hello, Dolly! (1978). During these years there was also the musical Rex, starring Nicol Williamson.
In the 1960’s Sid Caesar shined in the musical Little Me, with Bob Fosse’s choreography winning a Tony Award; Martha Graham and her Dance Company performed; Richard Burton played Hamlet and Hume Cronyn won a Tony as Polonius; Norman Wisdom amused in Walking Happy; Julie Harris went musical in Skyscraper; Marlene Dietrich made a dazzling Broadway debut in a concert of songs and anecdotes, backed by Burt Bacharach and his Orchestra; a Wall Street musical called How Now, Dow Jones won a Tony Award for actor Hiram Sherman; and Nicol Williamson played an interesting, acerbic Hamlet.
From mid-1932 until 1957 this theatre was a movie house with its entrance on Broadway. At this time Roger Stevens and Robert W. Dowling restored the house to legitimacy by completely redoing it in an elegant eighteenth-century style. The entrance was now returned to its original 46th Street location, and the theatre was renamed the Lunt-Fontanne. The gala reopening of the theatre starred the Lunts in one of their best plays— The Visit. It was their last appearance on Broadway. Other 1950’s highlights included John Gielgud and Margaret Leighton in Much Ado About Nothing; Mary Martin in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s last musical, The Sound of Music, which won six Tonys.
The last musical to play this theatre before it became a movie house in 1932 was Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach’s delightful The Cat and the Fiddle, which ran for 329 performances. Before that, Beatrice Lillie had cavorted in Vincent Youmans’s Oh, Please, containing the hit song, “I Know That You Know.”
In the early years of this house, the comedy team of Dave Montgomery and Fred Stone starred in many hit musicals here. These included The Old Town and Chin-Chin. Stone appeared without his partner in such hits as Jack o’Lantern and Tip-Top. When Stone became ill, Will Rogers subbed for him in Three Cheers. With his dancing daughter Dorothy, Stone scored a big hit in Stepping Stones. The Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 starred W.C. Fields and Fanny Brice, who sang “My Man” and “Second Hand Rose”; and two editions of George White’s Scandals with Gershwin scores opened here. For a change of pace in 1916, two great actresses—Laurette Taylor and Lynn Fontanne—appeared here in The Harp of Life.
Written by Louis Botto