New York Architecture Images- Midtown

St. James Theater


Warren & Wetmore


246-256 W44, bet. Broadway and Eighth Aves. 




Moorish Revival









  [New York, NY: St. James Theatre]
Built 1927 as "Erlanger's Theatre" by Warren and Wetmore for the Theatrical Syndicate. Opened 26 Sep 1927. 1935 renamed "St. James Theatre". Used for major musicals, such as "Oklahoma" (2212 performances), "Hello, Dolly" (2844 performances) or "The Producers". 1958 interior renovation. Originally 1509 seats, now 1618 seats.

Notable world premieres:

  • Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II: Oklahoma! (31 Mar 1943)
  • Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II: The King and I (29 Mar 1951)
  • Jerry Herman: Hello, Dolly (16 Jan 1964)

Special thanks to CARTHALIA Andreas Praefcke's postcard collection of theatres.

St. James Theater is home to some of the best Broadway Shows. St. James Theater was opened in 1927. This Broadway theater was named as a gesture to the London playhouse of the same name. The St. James presented the world premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein's first collaboration Oklahoma! Other noteworthy shows were The King and I with Yul Brynner, Hello Dolly and the revival of Gypsy starring Tyne Daly.

The Erlanger Theater was built as a self-monument (on the site of the original Sardi's restaurant) to producer-impressario-entrepeneur Abraham Erlanger who's fortunes waxed then waned with that of the Theatrical Syndicate in which he was a main player. The St James was built a bit too late, 1927, to take full advantage of the economic recovery of the Roaring '20s. Upon Erlanger's death in 1930, control of the theater was assumed by the Astor descendants (who still owned the land underneath the Erlanger and most other theaters west of Broadway), and the name was changed to the St James

The theater was purchased by the Shuberts (possibly in the late '30s?), a bit of irony given they were instrumental in breaking the hold of the Theatrical Syndicate, and therefore Erlanger's hold on the road show circuit. A bigger bit of irony ensued when, in a 1957 federal judgement, the now Shubert-monopoly was broken; the sale of the St James to the Jujamcyn Organization was one of the results of the judgement

The premiere production at the Erlanger Theater was The Merry Malones on September 25, 1927. Given some years of data we were unable to find, it is possible that the St James was not in legitimate use from Erlanger's death in 1930 until the Shubert purchase in (?1937?), which would be consistent with that of many other Broadway houses. Beginning in the early '40s the St James became a very successful musical house, with many long-running shows on its boards

1938 Maurice Evans, who had a successful run at the St James as Richard II the year before, performs the lead in the first uncut Broadway production of Shakespeare's Hamlet

1942 We mention her name every chance we get: Katharine Hepburn stars with Elliott Nugent in Philip Barry's comedy Without Love

1943 O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A-! is here and stays around for 2,212 performances. What a night of firsts is Mar 31, 1943: The first Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II musical to hit Broadway; the first Broadway show for choreographer Agnes DeMille; the first Broadway musical for Celeste Holm. Not the first anythings for Broadway vets Alfred Drake, Joan Roberts, Howard Da Silva and Bambi Linn

1948 Ray Bolger stars opposite Gretchen Wyler and wins a Tony in the Frank Loesser musical Where's Charley

1951 He wins a Tony for his performance and is associated with the role for 40 years. Yul Brynner stars with Gertrude Lawrence in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. The show also wins a Tony as best musical

1954 Bob Fosse makes his Broadway choreography debut and wins a Tony for his efforts in The Pajama Game. Carol Haney takes home a Tony for her performance alongside John Raitt, Janis Page and Eddie Foy Jr (of the 7 little Foys). If you look closely, you'll spot Shirley MacLaine and Peter Gennaro in the background

1956 Edie Adams as Daisy steals the show and a Tony in the Johnny Mercer-Gene de Paul musical version of Li'l Abner. Michael Kidd wins his 4th Tony for his choreography

1958 Oscar Hammerstein II, Joseph Fields and Richard Rodgers collaborated on The Flower Drum Song starring Myoshi Umeki, Larry Blyden, Pat Suzuki and Junaita Hall

1960 We just like the two of them, and with the talent behind the scenes, the show must have been a blast, if not long lived. Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker shared the stage in the Garson Kanin-Jule Styne-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical Do Re Mi. Talk about making someone happy

1961 Phyllis Newman is Tony's featured musical actress in the Jule Styne-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical Subways Are for Sleeping. She shares the stage with Carol Lawrence, Orson Bean and Sydney Chaplin

1962 The only thing that distinguishes Mr. President is that, sadly, it is Irving Berlin's last Broadway show

1963 The John Osborne comedy Luther wins the Tony as best play with Albert Finney's Broadway debut performance

1964 The show has been around since its original 1938 version, Thornton Wilder's comedy The Merchant of Yonkers, then reworked as 1955's The Matchmaker. This version opens Jan 16, 1964. It closes Dec 17, 1980. In between, such stars as Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller and ironically, Ethel Merman play the role of Dolly Levi in, of course, Hello Dolly. Merman initially rejected the role, which then went to Carol Channing, who makes a career of it. Miss Channing is joined on stage by, among others, Eileen Brennan and David Hartman (remember, he was a somewhat accomplished actor before morning television). The show wins the Tony as best musical. Miss Channing also earns a Tony, along with Michael Stewart as author, Jerry Herman as composer and lyricist, and Gower Champion as director and choreographer.

1971 Stockard Channing makes her Broadway debut alongside Raul Julia, Clifton Davis, and Jonelle Allen debut in the Galt McDermott-John Guare musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. The show runs for 613 performances and wins a Tony

1978 We take Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green wherever we can get them. And where we can get them now is On the Twentieth Century, the rat-a-tat-tat-chug-chug-chug musical featuring John Collum, Madeleine Kahn, Kevin Kline and Imogene Coca. Comden, Green, Collum and Kline win Tonys

1980 Jim Dale wins a Tony for his performance opposite Glenn Close in the Cy Coleman musical Barnum

1983 Sometimes things don't turn out the way they should, but kind of work anyway. Tommy Tune's new production started out as a revival of George and Ira Gershwin's Funny Face, but funny things happened on the way to the theater and it turned into My One and Only. It has a not-too-shabby run of 767 performances and Tune won as Tony for his work onstage, as did Charles 'Honi' Coles; Tune also won, with Thommie Walsh, for choreography. Twiggy was charming opposite Tune. Not a bad detour

1989 Tyne Daly takes a Tony for her performance in the Tony-winning revival of Gypsy

1991 Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon collaborate on the musical The Secret Garden. It stars Mandy Patankin, Rebecca Luke and Daisy Egan. Norman wins a Tony for her book, Egan for her performance. The show runs for 706 performances

1993 Take a 25-year-old rock opera and put it on Broadway? Why not? It has an 899-performance run and earns Tonys for its director Des McAnuff and choreographer Wayne Cilento. The Who's Tommy

1996 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum happened again as Nathan Lane wins a best musical actor Tony for his performance in this revival of the Burt Shevelove-Larry Gelbart-Stephen Sondheim musical

1999 Ann Hampton Callaway stars in Swing!, a revue opening Dec 9th

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