The St. James Theatre at 246 West Forty-fourth Street was built by Broadway booking agent Abraham Erlanger and opened as Erlanger’s Theatre in the fall of 1927. The theatre was designed by the architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore, with interiors by John Singraldi.
With an ample capacity of 1,600 seats, Erlanger’s Theatre was aimed primarily at the production of musicals. According to The New York Times, it cost $1.5 million to build and was the least ornate of all the theatres constructed in the Times Square district at the time. “In the auditorium,” reported the paper, “there has been a studied attempt to create an intimate rather than a theatrical atmosphere. The interior design is Georgian, the color scheme coral and antique gold. Murals decorate the side walls and the proscenium arch. Two large boxes on either side of the proscenium are known as the President’s and the Governor’s boxes. The main entrance is through wide doors to a spacious marble lobby extending all the way across the building. The facade, stretching along West Forty-fourth Street, is of marble, stone and stucco on a granite base and is also said to be representative of Georgian architecture.”
The opening attraction at Erlanger’s on the night of September 26, 1927, was George M. Cohan’s musical The Merry Malones, which, Cohan, with his typical modesty, wrote, produced, and starred in. It was a hit and got the new theatre off to a good start. It played for 192 performances, strangely interrupted by a short engagement of a flop play called The Behavior of Mrs. Crane, then returned for 16 additional performances.
Erlanger’s housed the last musical Cohan wrote. It was called Billie and was based on his 1912 play Broadway Jones. He did not appear in it, but it managed to run for 112 performances in 1928-29. This was followed by the popular musical Hello, Daddy! which moved here from the Mansfield Theatre. Herbert and Dorothy Fields wrote it for their father, vaudevillian Lew Fields, who starred in it. The remaining shows of 1929 were an unsuccessful revue, John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, starring Jimmy Savo and Trixie Friganza, with Noël Coward as one of the contributors; and a moderately successful comedy, Ladies of the Jury, with Mrs. Fiske as an opinionated juror who sways the other jurors to her way of thinking.
Mrs. Fiske appeared again at Erlanger’s in 1930 in a brief revival of Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals, in which she played Mrs. Malaprop. Next came this theatre’s biggest hit thus far, the infectious musical Fine and Dandy, with a funny book by Donald Ogden Stewart and a score by Kay Swift and Paul James that included two standards: “Can This Be Love?” and the rousing title tune. Comedian Joe Cook fractured theatregoers with his acrobatics, juggling, daffy gadgets, and inane patter. The hit thrived for 246 performances.
From May 1931 until March 1932 this theatre was taken over by the Civic Light Opera Company, which presented a successful repertory of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and other musical entertainments. Then a dark period followed, during which it was decided to rename the theatre the St. James, inspired by the St. James Theatre in London. On December 7, 1932, the theatre reopened with this new name. The star, appropriately, was London’s favorite revue comedienne, Beatrice Lillie, in a new show called Walk a Little Faster. Her costars were the famed comedy team of Bobby Clark and Paul McCullough, and the score was by Vernon Duke and E. Y. Harburg. The show was staged by Monty Woolley and Albertina Rasch, the production was designed and conceived by Boris Aronson, and the orchestrations were by the fabulous Robert Russell Bennett and Conrad Salinger. So what went wrong? Who knows, but the revue was only a moderate success, running for 121 performances. One gem has survived from this show: the beautiful Duke/Harburg song “April in Paris,” which the notoriously tone-deaf drama critics didn’t even mention.
After this sophisticated revue, the St. James reverted to Gilbert and Sullivan for several months. An event more balletic than theatrical occurred at this theatre in January 1934. Concert impresario Sol Hurok brought over the Ballets Russe of Monte Carlo, and the famed company presented its repertoire from January through April. The lead dancers included Leonide Massine, Irina Baronova, David Lichine, André Eglevesky, Tamara Toumanova, and Sono Osato. It was the beginning of America’s ballet craze and helped lay the groundwork for a more balletic style of Broadway choreography.
Bobby Clark and Paul McCullough returned to the St. James in another gilded revue, Thumbs Up, produced by Eddie Dowling, who also starred in the show with his comical wife, Ray Dooley. Two great dancers — -Hal Le Roy and Jack Cole —- were also in the show, as well as the popular Pickens sisters. It ran for 156 performances and introduced two song hits: James Hanley’s “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” and Vernon Duke’s haunting “Autumn in New York.”
On December 5, 1935, May Wine, a Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Frank Mandel operetta that disguised itself as “a musical play,” waltzed into the St. James for 212 performances. Among the large cast were Walter Slezak, Walter Woolf King, Leo G. Carroll, and Jack Cole.
John Gielgud moved his highly successful abridged Hamlet from the Empire Theatre to the St. James in January 1937, and Maurice Evans followed him in the title role of the highly praised revival of Shakespeare’s Richard II, staged by Margaret Webster. The production was the first revival of this tragedy in America since Edwin Booth played it in 1878, and it was a triumph. It ran for 132 performances.
A truly delightful fantasy called Father Malachy’s Miracle opened here on November 17, 1937. The beloved comic Al Shean (of Gallagher and Shean fame) played Father Malachy, a kindly priest who tires of a noisy dance hall across the way from his church and prays for it to be transported to an island far away. It happens, and he gets into a lot of trouble because he has not consulted the church hierarchy before working a miracle. Shean was hailed for his acting, and the fantasy ran for 125 performances.
On October 12, 1938, another dramatic milestone occurred at this theatre. The first full-length production of Hamlet to be presented in America was offered by Maurice Evans, Joseph Verner Reed, and Boris Said. Staged by the Shakespearean expert Margaret Webster, it ran from 6:45 to 8:15 p.m., with a dinner intermission, then resumed from 8:45 until 11:15. Later the dinner intermission was extended from a half-hour to an hour, bringing the final curtain down at 11:45. The production was a success, running for 96 performances. Ophelia was played by Katherine Locke, Gertrude by Mady Christians, and Rosencrantz by Alexander Scourby. Evans, of course, played Hamlet. In January 1939 Evans switched to playing the rotund Sir John Falstaff in a revival of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, with Edmond O’Brien as Henry, Prince of Wales. It was another success, running for 74 performances.
Shakespeare was interrupted for a brief moment by the arrival from the West Coast of the last Earl Carroll Vanities, a sorry revue with Jerry Lester and, worst of all, microphones onstage! According to Gerald Bordman in American Musical Theatre, this was really the beginning of that monster of our present-day musical theatre: electronic amplification.
Shakespeare returned to the St. James in the fall of 1940 with a splendid production of Twelfth Night, copresented by the Theatre Guild and Gilbert Miller. The cast included Helen Hayes (Viola), Maurice Evans (Malvolio), June Walker (Maria), Wesley Addy (Orsino), and Sophie Stewart (Olivia) in this delightful revival staged by Margaret Webster. In March 1941 a dramatic thunderbolt hit this theatre. It was Native Son, the dramatization of Richard Wright’s novel of the same name by Wright and Paul Green. Produced by John Houseman and Orson Welles and directed by Welles, this powerful drama stunned theatregoers with its story of a black man who accidentally kills a white woman. It ran for 114 performances and was chosen one of the season’s ten best plays by critic Burns Mantle.
The Boston Comic Opera Company and the Jooss Ballet Dance Theatre presented an exciting season of their works (including Kurt Jooss’s brilliant dance drama The Green Table) at the St. James from January to March 1942. This event was followed by the hit play Claudia, transferred from the Booth, which stayed at this theatre until November. The Theatre Guild then moved in with Philip Barry’s comedy Without Love, starring Katharine Hepburn, Elliott Nugent, and Audrey Christie. It was definitely not another winner like The Philadelphia Story, being a flimsy notion about a platonic marriage. After 110 performances, it departed. The best thing about the show was the stunning wardrobe designed for Hepburn by that supreme couturier Valentina.
On March 31, 1943, a musical play opened at the St. James that was rumored to be hopeless. In fact, the opening night was not sold out, and that was astounding, considering that it was a Theatre Guild production and the first fruit of a new collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, with choreography by Agnes de Mille and staging by Rouben Mamoulian. The show was Oklahoma!, and after the opening night you needed powerful friends or powerful ticket brokers to get you into the St. James. It became the hottest ticket since Show Boat in 1927. At the first matinee the following day, the St. James lobby was jammed with blue-haired ladies and rabid musical-comedy lovers all trying to get seats for the show that revolutionized the American musical theatre. Enough has been written about the significance of this musical —- integrated book and musical numbers, ballets woven into the plot —- not to warrant repetition. Notably, the show launched the great team of Rodgers and Hammerstein, saved the Theatre Guild from bankruptcy and directed the course of musicals for decades to come. It ran for 2,212 performances.
Although the musical that followed Oklahoma! into this theatre —- Frank Loesser’s Where’s Charley? —- did not match the artistry of its predecessor, it featured a winning performance by Ray Bolger, who stopped the show at every performance with his engaging sing-along number “Once in Love with Amy.” George Abbott wrote the libretto and directed the show, which ran for 792 performances. The choreography was by George Balanchine.
A successful revival of Peter Pan, starring Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff, with some songs by Leonard Bernstein, moved here from the Imperial Theatre in October 1950 and stayed until mid-January 1951. On March 29, 1951, Rodgers and Hammerstein presented their latest creation, The King and I, directed by playwright John Van Druten and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. With Gertrude Lawrence and a practically unknown actor, Yul Brynner, in the leads, the romantic musical based on the popular novel Anna and the King of Siam proved an immediate hit and played for 1,246 performances. It also proved to be Gertrude Lawrence’s last Broadway show. She passed away while it was still running and was succeeded by Constance Carpenter. In tribute to the great British star, all theatre marquee lights were dimmed for one minute on the night after her death.
Two more successful musicals followed The King and I at this theatre. The tuneful and high-energy The Pajama Game opened in May 1954 and stayed for 1,061 performances; Li’l Abner, based on Al Capp’s hillbilly comic strip of the same name, opened in November 1956 and ran for 693 performances.
In 1957 the Shuberts, who owned the St. James at this point, sold the theatre to Scarborough House Inc., which leased it to Jujamcyn Amusement Corporation. It was the first Broadway theatre owned and operated by Jujamcyn Theatres. In 1987 it was granted landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
When Li’l Abner closed in 1958, the theatre was dark for almost six months and stripped to its skeleton. The noted stage and interior designer Frederick Fox was engaged to rebuild the house and redecorate it from its original shell. He designed a new marquee and houseboards; a new box office and lobby; new foyer walls and floors; a brand-new smoking loggia; a new lighting system and chandelier; a sculpture; murals; specially woven fabrics for seats, walls, and carpeting; new house and asbestos curtains; new stairs; and an improved stage and updated dressing rooms. The latest equipment was installed, including a closed-circuit TV system so that technicians backstage could follow the action onstage. The new St. James was hailed as one of the most beautiful theatres in America.
The first production in the renovated theatre was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, one of their lesser efforts, which ran from December 1, 1958, until May 7, 1960. It was succeeded by Once Upon a Mattress, the popular musical based on “The Princess and the Pea,” starring Carol Burnett as Princess Winnifred. The show started at the Off-Broadway Phoenix Theatre and moved to Broadway when it turned into a hit. The show played in four different Broadway theatres, the last of which was the St. James, over the course of its 244 performance run. The score was written by Richard Rodgers’s daughter, Mary Rodgers, in collaboration with Marshall Barer. Burnett was praised for her zany performance.
Highlights of the 1960s at this theatre included Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn in Jean Anouilh’s Becket (1960); the Comden and Green, Jule Styne, Garson Kanin musical Do Re Mi (1960), starring Nancy Walker and Phil Silvers; Subways Are for Sleeping, another Comden/Green/Styne collaboration, with Sydney Chaplin, Carol Lawrence, Orson Bean, and Phyllis Newman (who won a Tony for her performance) in 1961; an uninspired Irving Berlin musical, Mr. President (1962), also his last Broadway show, starring Robert Ryan and Nanette Fabray; and the exciting John Osborne play Luther (1963), which won the Tony Award for Best Play of the season and starred Albert Finney.
On January 16, 1964, Hello, Dolly! exploded at this theatre, and by the time it closed on December 27, 1970, it had chalked up 2,844 performances, making it the longest-running Broadway musical up to that time (and still the record holder at the St. James). The David Merrick production, with a score by Jerry Herman, a book by Michael Stewart (based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker), and direction and choreography by Gower Champion, won a then-record ten Tony Awards. During its run at the St. James, Carol Channing was succeeded in the title role by the following stars: Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Bibi Osterwald, Pearl Bailey, Thelma Carpenter, Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman.
In 1971 Joseph Papp then brought his freewheeling musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona from Central Park to this theatre, where it stayed for 613 performances, winning a Tony Award for Best Musical. It was the second (and last) hit for Hair composer Galt MacDermot. The cast included Raul Julia, Clifton Davis, and Jonelle Allen, and all three received Tony nominations.
A revival of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1973, with Lois Nettleton, Alan Feinstein, Barbara Eda-Young, and Biff McGuire, was well received but lasted only 53 performances. A revival of the 1920's musical Good News (1974), with Alice Faye and John Payne (who was replaced by Gene Nelson during previews), fared even worse, with only 16 repetitions. A revival of Molière’s The Misanthrope, starring Alec McCowen, Diana Rigg, and others, played 94 performances in 1975, and A Musical Jubilee, a revue of popular American songs, ran for just 92 performances. A 20th-anniversary revival of My Fair Lady opened in March 1976, with Christine Andreas, Ian Richardson, Brenda Forbes, and George Rose, who won a Tony for his performance as Alfred P. Doolittle. It had a run of 384 performances.
In February 1978 Comden and Green and Cy Coleman brought in their musical version of the farce Twentieth Century and called it On the Twentieth Century. John Cullum and Kevin Kline won Tony Awards for their performances. The musical, about a broke Broadway producer trying to sign a movie star for his last-chance production while on a train ride from Chicago to New York, played 453 times.
From the spring of 1979 to the following spring, this theatre booked four unsuccessful productions. They were the Alan Jay Lerner/Burton Lane musical Carmelina (with a plot virtually identical to the later hit Mamma Mia!), Broadway Opry ’79, The 1940’s Radio Hour, and the British import Filumena, directed by Laurence Olivier and starring his wife Joan Plowright, along with Frank Finlay.
On April 30, 1980, the hit musical Barnum arrived and won a Tony Award for its star, Jim Dale, as well as for its sets (David Mitchell) and costumes (Theoni V. Aldredge). Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart wrote the score for this fanciful musical about the mighty circus impresario P. T. Barnum. It won three Tonys, including Best Actor in a Musical for Jim Dale, and ran for 854 performances.
In 1982 Rock ’n Roll! The First 5,000 Years, a tribute to that genre of music, had a very short run, but it was followed by a solid-gold hit in My One and Only, a new version of the old Gershwin musical Funny Face. After many troubles on the road, this production opened on May 1, 1983, to some very enthusiastic notices, especially for its two stars, Twiggy and Tommy Tune, and for tap dancer Charles (“Honi”) Coles. Tune won a Tony for his performance and another for his choreography with Thommie Walsh. The musical played here until March 3, 1985 (767 performances).
The next show at the St. James was a revue called Jerry’s Girls, a tribute to the women who had starred in the musicals of Jerry Herman. It starred Dorothy Loudon, Chita Rivera, and Leslie Uggams and had choreography by Wayne Cilento. During the run of this revue, Rivera injured her leg in a serious auto accident and her numbers were taken over by a series of her understudies. Fortunately, after years of therapy, Rivera recovered and was able to resume her career.
The hit musical 42nd Street moved here in 1987 and stayed until 1989. It was followed by Largely New York, starring the brilliant silent comedian Bill Irwin. Then came Tyne Daly in a well-received new production of the classic Gypsy, for which the TV star won a Tony Award. The musical also won a Tony for Best Revival. In 1991 a musical version of the children’s classic The Secret Garden opened here and won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical (Marsha Norman), Best Featured Actress (Daisy Eagan), and Best Scenic Designer (Heidi Landesman). The popular musical played for 706 performances.
On April 22, 1993, this theatre saw the Broadway premiere of The Who’s Tommy, the legendary rock opera by Pete Townshend (with additional music and lyrics by fellow Who rockers John Entwistle and Keith Moon), directed by Des McAnuff. The show dazzled critics and audiences with its multimedia effects and driving force. It garnered the following Tony Awards: Best Direction of a Musical (McAnuff), Best Original Music Score (Townshend, tied with Kander and Ebb for Kiss of the Spider Woman), Best Scenic Design (John Arnone), Best Lighting Design (Chris Parry), and Best Choreography (Wayne Cilento). The musical ran for 900 performances.
On April 18, 1996, another hit opened at this theatre. It was the revival of the 1962 Tony Award-winning musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The leading role of Pseudolus has been a lucky one for actors; it won the Tony Award for Zero Mostel in the original, Phil Silvers in the 1972 revival, and Nathan Lane in this revival. He was assisted by skillful farceurs Lewis J. Stadlen, Mary Testa, Mark Linn Baker, and Ernie Sabella. Stadlen was nominated for a Tony for his featured performance and Jerry Zaks for his choreography. The musical also received a Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Musical.
The production had a novel cast change on February 11, 1997, when Whoopi Goldberg succeeded Lane as Pseudolus. Cleverly, she left it unclear whether her Pseudolus was supposed to be a man or a woman but garnered much laughter with her raucous antics and ad libs. Later in the run she was succeeded by David Alan Grier. The show ran for 715 performances.
Pop singer Patti LaBelle played a brief engagement at this theatre in January 1998 in an entertainment called Patti LaBelle on Broadway.
The next tenant at the St. James seemed promising, but it proved a disappointment. It was a musical version of Philip Barry’s classic high comedy The Philadelphia Story, using Cole Porter songs from the film-musical version of the property called High Society, the latter title being retained for this stage adaptation. Some other Cole Porter songs from various of his vintage musicals were thrown in, but it was not enough. The production was doomed by the golden memories of the 1939 stage version and the 1940 film version, both starring Katharine Hepburn, and the 1956 movie musical starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby. The musical was directed by Christopher Renshaw, had a book by Arthur Kopit, and featured a cast that included Melissa Errico, John McMartin, Daniel McDonald, Stephen Bogardus, Randy Graff, Marc Kudisch, and precocious youngster Anna Kendrick. Kendrick garnered the best reviews as Dinah Lord and was nominated for a Tony Award, as was stage veteran McMartin. The musical had a short run of 98 performances. When it closed, Jujamcyn shuttered the St. James for eight months and embarked on a $3 million restoration that harmoniously incorporated recreations of Beaux Arts style architectural and design elements recovered from extensive research to return this illustrious house to its original 1927 splendor.
On April 22, 1999, The Civil War opened at the newly restored St. James. Frank Wildhorn wrote the music and lyrics and coauthored the book with Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy. Adding it to his Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel, Wildhorn became the first American composer in 20 years —- since Jerry Herman —- to have three musicals on Broadway simultaneously. The moment was marked by a tribute to the composer that put all three casts on the St. James stage at one time. Unfortunately, although his first two musicals ran a long time, The Civil War received adverse reviews and lasted only 61 performances. Originally commissioned and produced by Houston’s Alley Theatre, it was a song cycle that eschewed plot and dialogue to depict the experiences of Civil War soldiers in song, with occasional spoken lines taken from history. The musical was directed by Jerry Zaks.
The next tenant at this theatre had a run of 461 performances. It was the popular musical Swing!, an all-singing, all-dancing entertainment with Ann Hampton Callaway, Everett Bradley, Jennifer Shrader, and J. C. Montgomery. The explosive show showcased more than 30 numbers directed and choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, supervised by Jerry Zaks, including such classic songs as “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” and “Blues in the Night.” The musical received six Tony Award nominations.
Swing! ran through winter 2001, then closed to make way for Mel Brooks’s stage adaptation of his film comedy The Producers, which had been a cult favorite with theatre fans (and Wall Streeters) since its release in 1968. It tells the zany story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer who, working with a mousy accountant, concocts a scheme that will allow them to make more money with a flop than with a hit. They then set out to produce the biggest flop Broadway has ever seen: Springtime for Hitler, subtitled A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. Along with insulting numerous ethnic groups, the story broadly satirized the personalities and practices of Broadway. The movie contained a handful of songs, including the title tune of the show-within-a-show. Working with arranger Glen Kelly, director Susan Stroman, and librettist Thomas Meehan, Brooks composed a complete stage score, including audience favorites “The King of Broadway” for star Nathan Lane, “I Want to Be a Producer” for costar Matthew Broderick, and a one-man tour de force for Lane, “Betrayed.”
Once-in-a-generation reviews brought back to Broadway a sight rarely seen in the era of telephone and Internet ticket sales: a line of ticket buyers down Forty-fourth Street. At one point shortly after the April 19, 2001, opening of The Producers, the Shubert Organization, which shared a ticket-selling service with Jujamcyn, allowed ticket buyers to use the box office of the Majestic Theatre across the street to keep up with demand. The show was nominated for a record 15 Tony Awards and won a record 12, including Best Musical, Best Score (Brooks), Best Actor in a Musical (Lane), and both Best Direction and Best Choreography for Stroman. The show soon set a record top ticket price of $100 for regular seats and a whopping $480 for something new: VIP seats. A segment of the audience was happy to pay that much for the hot-ticket musical comedy. Responding to criticism, Brooks defended the practice, saying audiences were paying that and more to ticket scalpers who returned nothing to the show’s creators. Soon, other shows followed suit.
The Producers continued to sell out as long as Lane and Broderick were in the cast, but the producers of The Producers had trouble finding replacements who could still draw a crowd. The HBO television series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" built its fourth-season finale around star Larry David’s fictional decision to join the cast in Lane’s role of Max Bialystock. Expected to run a decade, The Producers managed “only” 2,502 performances (second only to Hello, Dolly! at this theatre), closing on April 22, 2007.
The St. James next saw a fall 2007 holiday musical adaptation of a classic children’s book, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The St. James was among the theatres targeted by a stagehands’ strike that eventually closed down most of Broadway for 19 days around Thanksgiving. Owing to the Grinch’s 11:00 a.m. matinee on the first day of the strike, it was the first show to get a picket line —- just as families were showing up to take their seats. One of the memorable images of the strike’s early days was Grinch star Patrick Page out on the sidewalk in front of the St. James doing something very un-Grinchlike: hugging disappointed children.
On March 27, 2008, Patti LuPone escorted her “Encores!” revival of the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents classic Gypsy to the St. James, and she brought the house down nightly with her volcanic rendition of “Rose’s Turn.” She won the 2008 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical, with Laura Benanti (Louise) and Boyd Gaines (Herbie) taking home Tonys as Best Featured Performers in a Musical.
LuPone made a bit of Internet history at the show’s second-to-last performance when she stopped in mid-”Rose’s Turn” to upbraid an audience member for taking photographs, which is forbidden by law. At least one other audience member captured audio of the tirade and posted it as a YouTube clip, which drew more than 50,000 views.
The Goodman Theatre of Chicago sent the St. James an April 27, 2009, revival of Eugene O’Neill’s early masterpiece Desire under the Elms, starring Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, and Pablo Schreiber, directed by Robert Falls. One of the notable aspects of the production was Walt Spangler’s set, overflowing with stones and boulders to represent the unforgiving nature of the soil the family fights over so desperately.
Fall 2009 saw a bright revival, via the City Center Encores! series, of Finian’s Rainbow, starring Kate Baldwin and Cheyenne Jackson. It was the first time this socially conscious Burton Lane/ E. Y. “Yip” Harburg/ Fred Saidy classic had been seen on Broadway in nearly half a century, but adverse reviews limited its run to 92 performances.
The St. James was quickly rebooked with American Idiot, a rock musical that tracks the odyssey of a young man named Johnny (John Gallagher Jr.) on a quest to the big city. The show was based on songs from two Grammy-winning albums by the rock group Green Day: American idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. It won 2010 Tony Awards for its sets (Christine Jones) and lighting (Kevin Adams), but not Best Musical, although it was nominated. The show ran for 422 performances, and was electrified whenever Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong took over the role of St. Jimmy, which he did during the show's closing weeks.
Returning with its "Summer of Love" vibe from July to September 2011 was a limited-run return engagement of Hair, the Diane Paulus-directed revival that originated as a Shakespeare in the Park production in 2008.