The Forrest is a quintessential "road house", used primarily by touring theatre and dance companies. It was built in 1927 to compete with rival A.L. Erlanger’s planned new playhouse at Market and 21st Streets. The Shuberts intended the new playhouse--named after Edwin Forrest, the great Philadelphia born tragic actor of the nineteenth century--to surpass Erlanger's new theatre in terms of size and splendor.
The opening performance was The Red Robe (1928), starring Walter Woolf and Evelyn Herbert. Many musicals, dramas and comedies have been launched from the Forrest. Yiddish Theatre, one man shows, dance programs, Gilbert & Sullivan productions and the Philadelphia Orchestra have all graced this stage.
Some notable Broadway shows which tried-out at this venue before debuting on Broadway include The Music Man (1957), Carnival (1961), Sail Away (1961), Bravo Giovanni (1962), Funny Girl (1963) starring Barbra Streisand, Holly Golightly (1965) —the first show at the Forrest where ticket prices broke $10.00, Sugar (1965), Golden Rainbow (1967), Brainchild (1969), The Wiz (1970), 70 Girls 70 (1973), Bob Fosse's Chicago (1975) starring Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon, Prince of Grand Street (1976), 1600 Pennsylvania Ave (1976), When Hell Freezes Over I'll Skate (1977), I Love My Wife (1977), and Sophisticated Ladies (1980).
National tours which began here include Zorba (1967) and A Little Night Music (1973).
The Forrest is one of architect Herbert J. Krapp's final theatre designs and also one of his more elaborate. Built at a cost of over $2,000,000, it boasted many modern conveniences including wider seats in the orchestra, a smoking room for both men and ladies in the lower lounge and state of the art ventilation and electrical systems. The interior was sumptuously decorated with gilt Adam detailing and silk brocade. The dressing rooms are housed in a separate building and connected by an underground tunnel to the Forrest’s stage.
Details on the Forrest Theatre's Accessibility
Theatre is not completely wheelchair accessible. There are no steps into the theatre from the sidewalk. Please be advised that where there are steps either into or within the theatre, we are unable to provide assistance.
Accessibility by Seating Section
Orchestra Location: Seating is accessible to all parts of the Orchestra without steps. There are no steps to the designated wheelchair seating location.
Mezzanine Location: Located on the 2nd Level, up 2 flights of stairs (30 steps). Please Note: The entrance to the 2nd Level is at the east end of the Grand Foyer.
Rear Mezzanine Location: Located on the 2nd Level, behind the Mezzanine. The upper rear Mezzanine landing has a rear exit which connects with Mezzanine exits in the theatre. There is a total of 66 steps.
Handrails: Available at the end of every stepped seat row in the Mezzanine.
Located in the Box Office lobby (accessible).
There is a wheelchair accessible (unisex) restroom on the street level with no steps.
Located in the unisex restroom on the main level (accessible).