BIRTHPLACE OF THE NATION’S GREATEST HITS
11 Dec 1914
Local newspaper critics enjoyed the show, which had already played on Broadway, but they were more impressed with the much needed, “beautiful, ultra modern playhouse… which New Haven people can refer to with justifiable pride.” Their sentiments were echoed by the greatest stars, producers, and writers of thetheatre world, who soon elected the Shubert Theatre and New Haven as their favorite place to try out shows before opening them on Broadway. There were many reasons for the choice: the beauty and efficiency of the theatre, the city’s proximity to New York, the avid support that area residents gave to thetheatre, and many other bonuses, ranging from Yale University to the marvelous array of shops and restaurants in downtown New Haven.
From its very first season, the Shubert Theatre has been a performing arts center presenting plays, musicals, opera, dance, classical music recitals and concerts, vaudeville, jazz artists, big bands, burlesque, and a variety of solo performances. Since opening in 1914, the Shubert Theatre has played host to over 600 pre-Broadway tryouts, including over 300 world premieres and 50 American premieres. The totals are double that of any theatre in New York City or any of the other try out cities like Boston, Philadelphia, or Washington.
The Shubert brothers ran the theatre from 1914 through the 1940-41 season, establishing the pattern of try-outs. Of the 14 musicals in the first season, 4 were new shows that played the Shubert before opening in New York. The first world premiere of a play and a musical at the Shubert came in the secondseason. In the fall of 1941, Maurice H. Bailey took over the theatre and for the next 35 years continued to enhance the Shubert’s enviable reputation as a preeminent house. Under his stewardship the theatre became known as the “Birthplace of the Nation’s Greatest Hits” for the number of long-run productions that first came to life on the Shubert stage.
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