The Ethel Barrymore Theatre is the only surviving theatre of the many Lee and J.J. Shubert built for performers who were affiliated with them. Ethel Barrymore was part of the renowned Barrymore acting dynasty, and her tremendous popularity in New York and London society established her as a household name in the US and England. She had achieved stardom under the management of producer Charles Frohman beginning in 1901. In 1928, the Shuberts offered to build her a theatre and commission a play for her to premiere in her namesake house.
Ethel Barrymore’s premiere at her theatre was The Kingdom of God in December 1928. In April, she opened in another vehicle, The Love Duel (1929), and then toured the country in both, not returning to her theatre until Scarlett Sister Mary (1930). She followed this with a revival of The School for Scandal (1931), her last show under her Shubert contract. Her final appearance at her theatre was in 1940, in An International Incident.
Even without Barrymore herself, the theatre was home to many successes in the 1930s and 40s. Fred Astaire starred in Cole Porter’s Gay Divorce (1932), and Noel Coward wrote, produced and staged two plays with Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne: Design for Living (1933) and Point Valaine (1935). Other notable productions include Death Takes a Holiday (1929), Clare Booth Luce’s The Women (1936), Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey (1940) starring Gene Kelly, and Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) with Jessica Tandy and Marlon Brando.
The second half of the 20th century proved even more star-studded. Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn played in The Fourposter (1951), Anthony Perkins received a Tony nomination for his role in Look Homeward, Angel (1957), Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee starred in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959), Lee Remick appeared in Wait Until Dark (1966), Robert Duvall starred in David Mamet’s American Buffalo (1977), and August Wilson presented his Tony Award winning Best Play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1988). Among other prominent shows and performers at the at the Barrymore were Peter Shaffer’s Lettice & Lovage (1990), starring Maggie Smith and produced by the Shubert Organization, and Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosenzweig (1993), with a scene-stealing performance by Madeline Kahn. Kathleen Turner and Jude Law came to Broadway in Indiscretions (1995) and Dame Judi Dench starred in David Hare’s Amy’s View (1999).
Other productions at the Barrymore include an acclaimed revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (2000); Charles Busch’s comedy The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (2000) starring Linda Lavin; Oscar Wilde’s Salome (2003) with Al Pacino, Marissa Tomei, Dianne Wiest, and David Strathairn; the Tony Award winning revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company (2006); More recent productions include Exit the King (2009) starring Tony Award winner Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon, and David Mamet's Race (2009). In 2012, the Barrymore was the home to the Tony Award winning revival of Death of a Salesman, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Barrymore is the last theatre Lee and J.J. Shubert built. Designed by Herbert Krapp, its exterior was modeled on the design of public baths in Rome, with a two-story terra-cotta grillwork screen. The interior decor combines Elizabethan, Mediterranean, and Adamsesque styles. The most elaborate interior element is the boxes, which feature a sunburst pattern over a columned portico.
Details on the Barrymore Theatre's Accessibility
Theatre is wheelchair accessible.
Accessibility by Seating Section
Orchestra: Seating is accessible to all parts of the Orchestra without steps. Wheelchair seating is located in the Orchestra only.
Mezzanine (second level): 3 flights of stairs up 30 steps. Please note, once on the Mezzanine level there are approximately 2 steps per row. Entrance to Mezzanine is behind row E of the Front Mezzanine.
Handrails: Available at the end of every stepped seat row in the Mezzanine.
In Lobby (Accessible at 54" with utility outler).
There is 1 (unisex) wheelchair accessible restroom located on the main floor with no steps. Non-accessible restrooms are located down 2 flights of steps (20 steps.)
Ticket Lobby accessible at 36"