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New Amsterdam Theater

About the New Amsterdam Theater in New York

Stepping out of Europe and the Netherlands, let’s go across the ocean for the moment and introduce you to one of the oldest theaters in New York – named after the city of Amsterdam - the New Amsterdam Theater. (Read more about New York in our New York articles section.)

In the history of Broadway, the New Amsterdam Theater is a name worthy to consider. It is considered as the oldest house for Broadway, being opened in 1903, the same night as the Lyceum Theater was opened. It was built by Marc Klaw and Abraham Erlanger and its elaborate design was said to be a collaboration of a number of painters, sculptors, and designers.

Broadway in New York

"The House Beautiful"

The New Amsterdam Theater in New York was first decorated in mauve, green and dull gold, and it is from these colors that the beauty of the New Amsterdam Theater earned its name "The House Beautiful" from the New York Time upon its opening. Many have said that during the opening of this theater, three motifs were used in the decoration. The first is the history of New Amsterdam from Henrick Hudson to 1903, the history of the theater, and art nouveau floral and fauna.

The first show staged in the New Amsterdam Theater is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. Although the theater could accommodate up to 1800 people, making it the largest theater in New York, it was fully packed when the first show was staged. From then on, several plays and musicals were performed on this theater. Top the list are She stoops to Conquer, George M. Cohan’s Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway, and The Merry Widow. It was in the 1913 that the New Amsterdam Theater became the home of Ziegfeld Follies. The Follies were the ones who brought a number of the greatest Broadway actors and actresses to the theater.

The Depression Period

However, during the depression period, the New Amsterdam Theater was greatly affected. While shows produce inside the theater remained fairly constant through the early thirties, the rooftop theater had suffered, and in 1936, the theater was closed. It was only reopened the next year, but for radio use rather than live productions. Then, it was transformed into a movie theater, but again the further project was cancelled when certain problems were discovered in the main supporting beam.

The New Amsterdam Theater was brought back to life when the Walt Disney Corporation purchased it in 1993 at a cost of $34 million. The theater was then restored, and it was noted that from the outside to the inside, the restoration is stunning.

The Grand Re-Opening

The grand opening of the New Amsterdam Theater happened in May of 1997, with a concert staging of King David. Later that year, a stage version of the highly successful full-length cartoon The Lion King was performed at this theater. It was actually The Lion King which went on to win the Tony Award for best musical in 1998 and has been playing to capacity crowds since its opening. The Lion King is still staged at the New Amsterdam Theater up to now.

Today, purchased and restored by Walt Disney Corporation, the New Amsterdam Theatre has been considered as the focal point of the recent Times Square revival. It is now considered as Disney’s premiere showcase for its stage shows, and much to your surprise, tours are still given on Mondays and Tuesdays and cats from The Lion King seem to play the New Amsterdam Theater in New York forever.

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