This warm, intimate theatre was a joint venture of the aristocratic producer Winthrop Ames, owner of the even smaller Little Theatre, and impresario Lee Shubert. Their aim was to offer theatregoers a cozy house for the viewing of dramas and comedies. It was named the Booth in remembrance of another Booth Theatre in Manhattan (named for actor Edwin Booth), in which Ames’s father had held financial interest.
The 668-seat (later augmented to 785) Booth Theatre on West Forty-fifth Street was built back-to-back with the Shubert Theatre and shared Shubert Alley with it. According to newspapers at the time of the Booth’s opening, the theatre was designed by architect Henry B. Herts in "early Italian Renaissance style, with designs in sgrafitto in brown and ivory, colors which harmonize with the exterior of the theatre, which is yellow brick and ivory terra cotta.” An unusual feature of the Booth was a wall that partitioned the entrance from the auditorium, preventing street and lobby noises and drafts from coming to the interior of the house. Woodwork and walls were in neutral tints of driftwood gray; draperies, upholstery, carpeting, and the house curtain were in various shades of mulberry. Chandeliers and appliqués along the wall gave the impression of candlelight. The theatre contained numerous Booth souvenirs, including the actor’s favorite armchair, a statue of him, and many handbills and posters of Booth’s appearances.
The Booth opened with fanfare on October 16, 1913, with the first American production of Arnold Bennett’s play The Great Adventure, dramatized by him from his novel Buried Alive. The stars were Janet Beecher and Lyn Harding, and the fascinating plot dealt with a famous artist who is pronounced dead and who decides to go along with the erroneous obituary. Unfortunately, the play lasted only 52 performances.
The Booth’s first hit was Experience, an allegorical play with music, in which William Elliott played a character who symbolized Youth. It ran for 255 performances in 1914-15. This was followed by another success, The Bubble, starring Louis Mann, which had a run of 176 showings.
On February 5, 1917, the distinguished producer/director Arthur Hopkins piloted a hit called A Successful Calamity, by Clare Kummer, starring William Gillette, Estelle Winwood, Roland Young, and William Devereaux. Later that year, DeLuxe Annie, with Jane Grey and Vincent Serrano, proved to be another good show.
The year 1918 started out with a huge hit for the Booth. Ruth Gordon, Gregory Kelly, Paul Kelly, and Neil Martin appeared in a delightful adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s Seventeen. There were two hits the following year: Janet Beecher and Lowell Sherman in a mystery called The Woman in Room 13 and a comedy called Too Many Husbands.
The Roaring Twenties at the Booth began rousingly with a lively melodrama, The Purple Mask, with Leo Ditrichstein, Brandon Tynan, and Lily Cahill in a cloak-and-dagger masquerade set in Napoleon’s time. Alexander Woollcott loved it and wrote in The New York Times that Tom Sawyer and Penrod would have, too. This swashbuckler was followed by a charming play, Not So Long Ago, a nostalgic Cinderella tale set in early New York, with Eva Le Gallienne giving an enchanting performance as a poor girl who marries a rich boy. She was supported by Sidney Blackmer and Thomas Mitchell. The Booth went back to melodrama in November 1920 with a rousing adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, with actress Ruth Findlay playing the dual roles of the title and with William Faversham and Clare Eames in other choice parts.
Highlights of the 1920s at the Booth included George Arliss as the Raja of Ruka in a lush adventure play, The Green Goddess (1921), set in the Himalayas, which ran for 440 performances. A. A. Milne’s engrossing play The Truth About Blayds (1922), starred O. P. Heggie as Blayds, a famed poet who reveals that someone else wrote all his poems, with Leslie Howard, Frieda Inescort, and Ferdinand Gottschalk helping to keep his secret. Austin Strong’s unforgettable Seventh Heaven (1922) featured Helen Menken and George Gaul as the poor lovers in a Parisian garret. They moved in for 683 performances.
Next came Dancing Mothers (1924), a daring play in which a mother (played by Mary Young) rebels against her flapper daughter (Helen Hayes) and philandering husband (Henry Stephenson) by going wild herself and walking out on them. Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman’s Minick (1924) provided a gentle portrait of an old man going to live with his son and daughter-in-law.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne appeared at the Booth in their fourth play together, Molnar’s The Guardsman (1924), a Theatre Guild production so successful that it moved to the Booth from the Garrick Theatre. The 1920s continued with publisher Horace Liveright’s startling modern-dress production of Hamlet (1925), which depicted Basil Sydney as the melancholy Dane in a dinner suit, King Claudius (Charles Waldron) in flannels, and Ophelia (Helen Chandler) in flapper frocks; The Patsy (1925), a winning comedy starring Claiborne Foster; Winthrop Ames’s 1926 production of a fanciful Philip Barry comedy, White Wings (a fancy term for street cleaners), which should have lasted longer than 27 performances; Ruth Gordon, Roger Pryor, and Beulah Bondi in Maxwell Anderson’s timely comedy about youth, Saturday’s Children (1927); and Leslie Howard and Frieda Inescort in John Galsworthy’s excellent drama Escape (1927), brilliantly produced and staged by Winthrop Ames.
The Grand Street Follies of 1928, an annual topical revue that spoofed current plays and players, featured James Cagney tapping and Dorothy Sands stopping the show with her impression of Mae West playing Shakespeare; Cagney, Sands, and others returned to do parodies for The Grand Street Follies of 1929. The last show of the 1920s at the Booth was a contemporary comedy of ill manners called Jenny (1929), starring Jane Cowl as an actress who tries to straighten out a wayward family but ends up running off with the father of the house, capitally played by Guy Standing.
During the 1930s some 50 shows played the Booth, many of them quick failures and a number of them transferred from other theatres. Among the most noteworthy tenants were Margaret Sullavan in her Broadway debut, in a shabby play called A Modern Virgin (1931); Rose Franken’s drama about family tyranny, Another Language (1932), splendidly acted by Margaret Wycherly, Margaret Hamilton, Glenn Anders, Dorothy Stickney, and John Beal; No More Ladies (1934), an intelligent comedy about infidelity, by A. E. Thomas, starring Lucile Watson and Melvyn Douglas; and Gladys Cooper making her Broadway debut with Raymond Massey and Adrianne Allen in Keith Winter’s The Shining Hour (1934), another play about infidelity.
Also seen were John Van Druten’s “comedy of women,” called The Distaff Side (1934), superbly acted by Sybil Thorndike, Mildred Natwick, Estelle Winwood, and Viola Roache; J. B. Priestley’s Laburnum Grove (1935), in which Edmund Gwenn pretended to be a counterfeiter in order to get rid of sponging relatives who wished to borrow money from him; and Melvyn Douglas, Cora Witherspoon, Claudia Morgan, Violet Heming, Elsa Maxwell, Blanche Ring, and Tom Ewell — a million-dollar cast — all wasted in a maudlin play called De Luxe (1935), by novelist Louis Bromfield and John Gearon.
The radiant Grace George starred in a chilling drama, Kind Lady (1935), about a rich old lady held captive in her own home by a gang of clever thieves headed by Henry Daniell. The 1930s continued with Blind Alley (1935), another thriller, with Roy Hargrave as a gangster who is destroyed when a psychologist (George Coulouris) he is holding captive delves into his mind; a classical Chinese drama, Lady Precious Stream (1936), starring Helen Chandler, Bramwell Fletcher, and Clarence Derwent; Sweet Aloes (1936), a British play by Joyce Carey, with Miss Carey, Evelyn Laye, and Rex Harrison making his Broadway debut; and a rowdy farce about wrestling, Swing Your Lady (1936).
Henry Travers and Josephine Hull headed an insane family of lovable eccentrics in Kaufman and Hart’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy You Can’t Take It with You (1936), which ran almost two years at the Booth. There followed Montgomery Clift, Jessie Royce Landis, Morgan James, and Onslow Stevens in Dame Nature (1938), a sexual drama adapted from the French by actress Patricia Collinge; Philip Barry’s arresting drama Here Come the Clowns (1938), with Eddie Dowling, Madge Evans, Doris Dudley, and Russell Collins; and a bright, richly designed revue, One for the Money (1939), by Nancy Hamilton and Morgan Lewis, with future stars Alfred Drake and Gene Kelly, along with Keenan Wynn, Grace McDonald, and Brenda Forbes.
Another Pulitzer Prize-winning play brought the 1930s to a close at the Booth: William Saroyan’s daffy comedy The Time of Your Life, with Eddie Dowling, Julie Haydon, Gene Kelly, William Bendix, Edward Andrews, and Celeste Holm.
In the 1940s the Booth had fewer productions than in the preceding decade, but more long-running hits. The decade started out with a sequel to the revue One for the Money called, aptly, Two for the Show, by the same authors. This edition boasted a memorable song, “How High the Moon,” and comic and tuneful performances by One for the Money veterans Drake and Wynn, along with Betty Hutton, Eve Arden, Richard Haydn, Brenda Forbes, Tommy Wonder, Eunice Healey, and Nadine Gae. On February 12, 1941, a genuine hit called Claudia came to the Booth and stayed for a little over a year. Written by Rose Franken, the touching play about a childlike wife made a star out of Dorothy McGuire and brought back to the stage the famed Belasco actress Frances Starr to play Claudia’s mother, with Donald Cook as her husband.
Noël Coward’s blissful comedy Blithe Spirit moved from the Morosco to the Booth in 1942, with Clifton Webb, Peggy Wood, Leonora Corbett, and Mildred Natwick, and the merry spooks stayed for a year. Another huge hit, The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1943), starring Elisabeth Bergner, Victor Jory, Vera Allen, and Irene Worth, thrilled Booth audiences with its homicidal plot and stayed for 585 performances.
A war drama, The Wind Is Ninety, had a remarkable cast (Kirk Douglas, Wendell Corey, Joyce Van Patten and her brother “Dickie,” Blanche Yurka, and Bert Lytell) and played for more than 100 performances in 1945. You Touched Me! (1945), by Tennessee Williams and Donald Windham, had fine performances by Montgomery Clift and Edmund Gwenn but was a lesser Williams work. Bobby Clark added burlesque touches to Molière’s The Would-Be Gentleman, with June Knight and Gene Barry; Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s psychological murder mystery Swan Song played for 158 performances; and a revival of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1946) had Burgess Meredith, Mildred Natwick, J. C. Nugent, Julie Harris, and, making her Broadway debut, Maureen Stapleton.
Additional 1940's hits included Norman Krasna’s farce-comedy John Loves Mary (1947), with Nina Foch, Tom Ewell, and William Prince; Gilbert Miller’s revival of Molnar’s bubbly comedy The Play’s the Thing (1948), with Louis Calhern, Ernest Cossart, Arthur Margetson, and Faye Emerson making her Broadway debut; James B. Allardice’s comedy At War with the Army (1949), staged by Ezra Stone, with Gary Merrill giving an excellent performance; and Grace George, Walter Hampden, Jean Dixon, and John Williams in a pleasant religious drama, The Velvet Glove (1949).
The 1950s began auspiciously with William Inge’s first Broadway play, Come Back, Little Sheba, with Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer winning Tony Awards for their powerful performances. Beatrice Lillie was the toast of the town in the hilarious revue An Evening with Beatrice Lillie (1952), in which she sang some of her most celebrated songs and acted in some of her most outlandish sketches with Reginald Gardiner for 278 performances. A popular comedy called Anniversary Waltz (1954), directed by Moss Hart and starring his wife, Kitty Carlisle, and Macdonald Carey, moved from the Broadhurst to the Booth and stayed for ten months; Time Limit (1956), a taut drama about the Korean War by Henry Denker and Ralph Berkey, starred Richard Kiley, Arthur Kennedy, Allyn McLerie, and Thomas Carlin and played for 127 performances.
Gore Vidal’s science fiction delight, Visit to a Small Planet (1957), starring Cyril Ritchard as a comic extraterrestrial and Eddie Mayehoff as an imbecilic general, ran for nearly a year. William Gibson’s Two for the Seesaw (1958), an enchanting two-character love story starring Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft, ran for almost two years; and Paddy Chayefsky’s The Tenth Man, about the exorcism of a dybbuk in suburban Mineola, with Gene Saks as a rabbi and Jack Gilford, George Voskovec, Jacob Ben-Ami, and Lou Jacobi giving sublime performances, played 623 times.
Highlights of the 1960s included Julie Harris, Walter Matthau, William Shatner, Gene Saks, and Diana van der Vlis in the continental comedy A Shot in the Dark (1961); Murray Schisgal’s outré comedy Luv (1964), directed by Mike Nichols, with Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, and Alan Arkin as three miserable creatures who cavort on a bridge, which lasted for 901 performances; Flanders and Swann, the British comedy team, in At the Drop of Another Hat (1966), a follow-up to their popular two-man revue At the Drop of a Hat; and Harold Pinter’s sinister play The Birthday Party (1967), his first full-length work on Broadway.
Next came one of the Booth’s most popular tenants, Leonard Gershe’s Butterflies Are Free, the story of a blind man, his kooky neighbor, and his overprotective mother, which stayed for 1,128 performances. The cast featured Keir Dullea, Blythe Danner (who made her Broadway debut and won a Tony Award for her luminous acting), and Eileen Heckart (later replaced by Gloria Swanson).
In 1972 the Booth housed another Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Joseph Papp’s production of That Championship Season (1972), by actor Jason Miller, which moved from the downtown New York Shakespeare Festival and played for almost two years at the Booth. Other attractions of the decade included Terrence McNally’s zany Bad Habits (1974), two playlets about therapy, which moved uptown from the Astor Place Theatre; Cleavon Little in Murray Schisgal’s All Over Town (1974), directed by Dustin Hoffman; a revival of Jerome Kern’s 1915 musical Very Good Eddie (1975), from the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut; and Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1976), an exalted program of poetry acted by an extraordinary cast of black artists for 742 performances.
The Elephant Man (1979), Bernard Pomerance’s enthralling study of a disfigured man who strives to keep his humanity though he is displayed in a carnival freak show, was enhanced by memorable performances from Philip Anglim, Kevin Conway, and Carole Shelley. The drama moved from Off-Broadway’s Theatre at Saint Peter’s Church to the Booth and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play and three Tony Awards.
In 1975 the Booth was home to a unique, though failed, experiment on the part of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Joseph Papp, who was then flush from the phenomenal success of A Chorus Line at the neighboring Shubert Theatre. Advertising “Broadway for bupkes” (Yiddish for “very little money”), he booked the Booth for what was to have been a subscription series of Broadway dramas at a cost of just $10. The series did not survive the failure of its first offering, Dennis J. Reardon’s The Leaf People, which closed after eight performances.
In 1979 the famed interior designer Melanie Kahane, who had redone four other Shubert Organization theatres, was hired to restore the Booth to its original elegance and grandeur. “What I’ve tried to do with these old houses is get back to the beginning and then modernize them in some way,” she told PLAYBILL at the time. “The Booth was a sad old sack. All in brown. I kept the brown below — to anchor — then put light beige on top. The light color brings your eye up, so you notice the detail.” Kahane characterized the Booth as “very Jacobean.” She got rid of the delicate French chandeliers, which she felt didn’t belong in that house, and restored the elegant old theatre in the short space of three weeks.
Most of the thousands of theatre fans who visit the One Shubert Alley memorabilia store don’t realize it is actually one of the Booth’s converted former dressing rooms.
In November 1981 Mass Appeal, by Bill C. Davis, directed by Geraldine Fitzgerald, was another successful transfer from Off-Broadway to the Booth. This religious drama, first presented at the Circle Repertory Theatre and the Manhattan Theatre Club, featured excellent performances by Milo O’Shea as a luxury-loving priest and Michael O’Keefe as his rebellious protégé.
The Booth’s 1980s tenants included the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Good, by the British playwright C. P. Taylor, starring Alan Howard as an intellectual German in Frankfurt in 1933 who turns into a rabid Nazi; Total Abandon, a short-lived play by Larry Atlas, starring Richard Dreyfuss as a parent who is guilty of child abuse and murder; and Sunday in the Park With George, a unique musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, in which an Impressionist painting comes to life. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters starred. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Herb Gardner’s I’m Not Rappaport (1985) brought the Best Play Tony Award to the Booth, with its story of a feisty old codger who tries to hold on to life and dignity in his relationships with his friend, his daughter, and a young woman he meets in Central Park. It played for 890 performances. Judd Hirsch won the Tony as Best Actor in a Play.
The London hit Shirley Valentine (1989) struck a chord with its story of a working-class woman who grows tired of being taken for granted by her family and makes the bold step of abandoning them to pursue her dream of going to Greece. Pauline Collins won a Tony Award for her performance in Willy Russell’s solo play, which occupied the Booth for 324 performances.
The year 1990 brought Once on This Island, the Broadway debut of the songwriting team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, later to create My Favorite Year, Ragtime, and Seussical. Their first Broadway production retold a Caribbean tale about a peasant girl whose romance with a handsome aristocrat is aided by spirits of the land, air, and water. The bittersweet fairy-tale musical lasted 469 performances and earned the team a Tony nomination for Best Score.
In 1992 a British play, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness, was splendidly acted by Stephen Rea, Alec McCowen, and James McDaniel and ran for 216 performances. It was nominated for two Tony Awards: Best Play and Best Actor in a Play (Rea). The following year, The Twilight of the Golds by Jonathan Tolins had an interesting premise — a pregnant woman learns, via genetic testing, that her future son will be gay — but the critics dismissed the theme as shallow. It closed after 29 performances. On April 24, 1994, Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, starring Amy Irving, Ron Rifkin, and David Dukes, explored the theme of American Jews during the Holocaust. But the play drew mixed reviews, with several critics finding the work “unfinished.” It closed after 73 performances.
In December of that year, A Tuna Christmas arrived for a limited engagement. A sequel to the 1982 hit Greater Tuna, the show was once again performed by two actors — Jaston Williams and Joe Sears (who cowrote it with Ed Howard). They portrayed a variety of characters in the small town of Tuna, Texas. Sears was nominated for a Best Actor Tony for his versatile performance.
Having Our Say arrived at the Booth on April 6, 1995. Mary Alice and Gloria Foster starred as the Delany sisters, the daughters of a former slave, whose lives encompassed a century of African-American history. Both of the play’s real-life subjects were more than 100 years old when the play opened and attended one of the performances. The play was adapted by Emily Mann from the sisters’ autobiography. The play achieved 308 performances and received the following Tony Award nominations: Best Play (Mann), Best Director of a Play (Mann), and Best Actress (Alice).
The Booth was filled with laughter when Jackie Mason brought his one-man comedy show Love Thy Neighbor there in 1996. With his hilarious barbs at contemporary society, the comic kept audiences happy for 236 performances. Another one-man comedy show moved to the Booth from the Helen Hayes Theatre on January 29, 1997. It was the popular hit Defending the Caveman, written and performed by Rob Becker. During the run at the Booth Becker was succeeded by Michael Chiklis. The comedy closed June 21, 1997, after 645 performances (at the Hayes and the Booth combined). It was the last long run at the Booth for more than a decade.
David Mamet’s The Old Neighborhood opened on November 19, 1997, offering a collection of three memory plays about the Chicago neighborhood where the author grew up. Performed without intermission, the plays starred Peter Riegert, Patti LuPone, Vincent Guastaferro, and Rebecca Pidgeon (Mrs. Mamet). The production received mixed reviews and ran for 197 performances.
An Evening with Jerry Herman, a revue of Herman’s songs, opened on July 28, 1998, with the composer/lyricist at the piano, assisted by actor Lee Roy Reams, singer Florence Lacey, and Jared Egan on bass. The entertainment had a lukewarm reception and departed after 28 performances.
Caustic comic Sandra Bernhardt insulted showbiz celebrities in her one-woman show I’m Still Here… Dammit!, to the delight of some theatregoers and the chagrin of others. Her profane barbs ceased after 51 airings.
David Hare’s provocative one-man show Via Dolorosa showcased his vivid recollections of Jews and Arabs he met on a visit to the West Bank. Opening on March 18, 1999, as a production of the Lincoln Center Theater, it enthralled audiences for 85 performances.
On October 17, 1999, the Booth enjoyed a riotous explosion with the opening of Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. Australian actor Barry Humphries, who for years had delighted audiences with his impersonation of a flamboyant, eccentric “housewife superstar” called Dame Edna, captivated critics and audiences with this entertainment that involved much audience participation. Humphries won a special Tony Award for his brilliant impersonation and flung gladiolas at audiences until July 2, 2000.
In November 2000 Lily Tomlin brought her celebrated 1985 one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe back to Broadway for a limited engagement. Written and directed by Jane Wagner, the tour de force had earned Tomlin the 1986 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play.
It was followed on February 17, 2002, by another successful monodrama, Bea Arthur on Broadway, featuring the reminiscences of the costar of the original Mame, The Threepenny Opera, and TV’s "Maude." Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen starred in a short-lived revival of Herb Gardner’s I’m Not Rappaport in summer 2002.
Film star Paul Newman made his first appearance on Broadway in nearly 40 years, playing the Stage Manager in a November 2002 revival of Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town (59 performances, limited run). The production was presented in part as a fund-raiser by Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut, for which Newman’s wife, actress Joanne Woodward, served as artistic director. Newman earned a Tony nomination as Best Actor in a Play for what also turned out to be his final Broadway performance. The production also featured Jayne Atkinson as Mrs. Gibbs, Frank Converse as Dr. Gibbs, Jane Curtin as Mrs. Webb, and Stephen Spinella as Simon Stimson.
The Retreat from Moscow (October 23, 2003) was not a military play; rather, it was a portrait of a dysfunctional family, led by John Lithgow and Eileen Atkins as the parents whose marriage is stalled and likely terminal. The title comes from the name of a painting that occupied the attention of the leading man. William Nicholson’s play ran 148 performances.
Eve Ensler, who had achieved an international hit with her Off-Broadway collection The Vagina Monologues, about women’s thoughts on their private parts, returned with The Good Body, a solo show about how women relate to the rest of their bodies, especially their weight. The November 15, 2004, production did not achieve the earlier show’s cult-hit status and closed after 40 performances.
Broadway got a touch of horror with Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed drama The Pillowman, about a writer named Katurian (Billy Crudup), who is questioned and tortured by police (Jeff Goldblum and Zeljko Ivanek). The constables have noticed that a series of gruesome local child murders closely resemble those in some of Katurian’s stories. It turns out that the stories were inspired by events in the writer’s own childhood, and soon his brother (Michael Stuhlbarg) adds to the plot’s many twists and turns. Winner of the 2004 Olivier Award in its Royal National Theatre premiere in London, The Pillowman opened on Broadway April 10, 2005, and ran 185 performances, winning Tony Awards for its sets and costumes, and the 2005 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.
George Grizzard and Frances Sternhagen starred as the human couple in a November 2005 revival of the Pulitzer-winning drama Seascape, formally titled Edward Albee’s Seascape for this production. Elizabeth Marvel and Frederick Weller played the human-sized reptiles who rise from the sea and overcome mutual suspicion to find a common…humanity is certainly not the right word, but understanding.
Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones starred in a May 2006 revival of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer, about a traveling layer-on-of-hands who believes he may actually have performed a bona fide miracle. However, the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play went to Ian McDiarmid, who played the healer’s devoted longtime manager.
In an October 2006 revival of Simon Gray’s Butley, Nathan Lane presented a portrait of a teacher whose anger and cynicism have poisoned all the personal and professional relationships in his life.
Manhattan’s intelligentsia were thrilled when novelist Joan Didion announced in the pages of The New York Times that she was working on her first full-length play for Broadway, an adaptation of her 2005 novel The Year of Magical Thinking, which would offer an autobiographical account of the stages she went through in accepting the illness and eventual death of both her husband, novelist John Gregory Dunne, and her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael. The result opened March 29, 2007, with Vanessa Redgrave playing Didion on a nearly bare set. Some critics found it more gentle and contemplative than they had expected. It ran 144 performances.
The devil came down to Dublin for an extraordinarily high-stakes card game on Christmas Eve in Conor McPherson’s drama The Seafarer, directed by the author. Jim Norton won a Tony Award for his performance in an ensemble that included Conleth Hill and Ciarán Hinds. The production opened December 6, 2007, and ran 133 performances.
Laurence Fishburne presented an inspiring portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in George Stevens Jr.’s. solo drama Thurgood for a limited engagement of 126 performances starting April 30, 2008.
Nineteen years after its regional debut, and a year after a hit Off-Broadway revival, Horton Foote’s Dividing the Estate finally was mounted on Broadway with a sterling cast that featured Elizabeth Ashley, Penny Fuller, Gerald McRaney, and the playwright’s daughter, Hallie Foote. But it had the misfortune of opening November 20, 2008, just a few months after another acclaimed dysfunctional family drama, the Pulitzer-winner August: Osage County, which was still playing across the street at the Music Box. Some critics (and audiences) found them to be too similar in tone. Dividing the Estate lasted only through January 4, 2009.
The Booth was occupied very briefly — for five performances — in February 2009 by a chamber musical called The Story of My Life, which transferred here after acclaimed engagements at the Canadian Stage Company and Goodspeed Musicals. New York critics were not similarly impressed, saying the story of a famous writer (Will Chase) and the devoted friend he neglects (Malcolm Gets) insufficiently plumbed the characters. The show had music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and a book by Brian Hill.
Alice Ripley gave one of the great musical theatre performances of her generation in Next to Normal, the story of a woman whose mental illness worsens despite therapy, which tears her family apart. She feels trapped in her marriage but is actually trapped by the memories of her beloved son, who died while still a child. The unorthodox show, with music by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, offered no happy ending but did offer several rewarding roles played by Ripley (Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical), J. Robert Spencer (Tony nomination), Jennifer Damiano (Tony nomination), and Aaron Tveit. The production opened at the Booth on April 15, 2009, after a decade-long development process and engagements at Second Stage Theatre Off-Broadway and at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The show was nominated for a total of eleven 2009 Tony Awards. Yorkey and Kitt won the Tony for Best Score. The musical ran for 733 performances.
Next to Normal was followed by a drama entitled High, starring Kathleen Turner as a nun who counsels a troubled young addict. Despite good personal notices for Turner, the play lasted only seven performances.
The Booth has always been an ideal house for dramas, comedies, and intimate musical shows.