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On Wednesday, June 29, 1983, the former Alvin Theatre was renamed the Neil Simon, in honor of the playwright who has since enjoyed several hits at this theatre, which is owned by the Messrs. Nederlander.
Recent productions here include Elaine Stritch At Liberty; The Music Man; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Swan Lake; A View From the Bridge; The King and I; Cyrano; Rise and Fall of Little Voice; Jake’s Women, starring Alan Alda; Jackie Mason: Brand New; Vanessa Redgrave in Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending; Ah, Wilderness! and Long Day’s Journey Into Night, starring Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards; Derek Jacobi in Breaking the Code; a revival of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, starring Richard Chamberlain and Geraldine Page; Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues, both with Matthew Broderick; the successful gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God; the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical Merrily We Roll Along; the gold mine called Annie by Martin Charnin, Thomas Meehan and Charles Strouse, which received Tonys for Best Musical, Score, Sets, Costumes, Choreography and Best Actress (Dorothy Loudon) and ran 2,377 performances.
Other 1970’s productions included Shenandoah starring John Cullum (Tony Award) and Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, directed by Hal Prince, which won seven Tonys.
During the 1960’s Lucille Ball made her Broadway debut here in the musical Wildcat; followed by the hysterical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the multi-Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim, Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, starring Zero Mostel, David Burns and Jack Gilford; Beatrice Lillie in her last Broadway show, High Spirits, a musical version of Blithe Spirit, co-starring Tammy Grimes and Edward Woodward; Liza Minnelli winning a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in Flora, the Red Menace; Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; and Howard Sackler’s Pulitzer Prize winner The Great White Hope, starring James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander (both won Tony Awards).
Highlights of the 1950’s included Claude Rains (Tony Award) in Darkness at Noon; Shirley Booth in the musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Henry Fonda in Point of No Return; Bette Davis in an ill-fated revue, Two’s Company; Mary Martin and Charles Boyer in Norman Krasna’s Kind Sir; The Golden Apple, a musical that won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award; House of Flowers, the Truman Capote/Harold Arlen musical, starring Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll; Andy Griffith in Ira Levin’s long-running comedy No Time for Sergeants; and the musical Oh, Captain, starring Tony Randall, Abbe Lane, Susan Johnson and Alexandra Danilova.
Gems of the 1940’s: Gertrude Lawrence and Danny Kaye in the dazzling Lady in the Dark; the Lunts and Montgomery Clift in the Pulitzer Prize play There Shall Be No Night; Ethel Merman in Porter’s Something for the Boys; Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Lorraine; Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts. In 1935 Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess premiered here; in 1930 Merman made her debut in Gershwin’s Girl.
Written by Louis Botto