The Shuberts conceived of the Imperial Theatre, their fiftieth New York venue, as a home to musical theatre hits, and their dream has been realized many times over. The playhouse was constructed as a replacement for the Shubert’s 20 year old (and out-of-date) Lyric Theatre.
Over the years, the Imperial has witnessed a distinguished roster of hits. Its inaugural production was Mary Jane McKane (1923) followed by Broadway’s biggest grosser of the 1920s, the operetta Rose-Marie (1924). Next was George and Ira Gershwin’s Oh, Kay! (1926) starring Gertrude Lawrence, which included the now-classic “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Successes of the 1930s included two George and Ira Gershwin tuners, Of Thee I Sing (1933) and Let ‘Em Eat Cake (1933), Moss Hart and Cole Porter’s Jubilee (1935), which featured premieres of “Begin the Beguine” and “Just One of Those Things”, and Rodgers and Hart’s On Your Toes (1936). Mary Martin debuted on Broadway in Cole Porter’s Leave It to Me (1938), singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, and backed up by a chorus boy named Gene Kelly.
Many of the 20th century’s most respected and successful composers and musical theatre stars played the Imperial Theatre. Irving Berlin had four hits here in the 1940s: Louisiana Purchase (1940), Miss Liberty (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1946) and Call Me Madam (1950). Cole Porter had his collaboration with Herbert and Dorothy Fields Let’s Face It (1941), and Silk Stockings (1955).
Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella (1956) led a new generation of hits, followed by Carnival (1960), Oliver! (1963) and the history-making Fiddler on the Roof (1964) starring Zero Mostel, which went on to become the longest running musical of its time in Broadway history. When Fiddler trasnferred to the Majestic to finish its run, two John Kander and Fred Ebb musicals moved in: Cabaret (1967) and Zorba (1968).
The most successful shows of the 1970s were Bob Fosse’s production of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin (1972) starring Ben Vereen, and back-to-back Neil Simon hits: Chapter Two (1977) and They’re Playing Our Song (1979). Michael Bennett’s Dreamgirls (1981) was followed by two Shubert-produced musicals: Chess (1988) and Jerome Robbins' Broadway (1989). In 1990, Les Misérables moved to the Imperial from the Broadway, and completed its 6,680 performance run.
Most recently, the Imperial welcomed Australian heartthrob Hugh Jackman in the Peter Allen musical biography, The Boy From Oz (2003), the award-winning musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005), Tracy Lett's acclaimed August: Osage County (2007), the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Billy Elliot (2008) and Nice Work if You Can Get It (2012) with Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara.
Like many other Shubert theatres, the Imperial was designed by Herbert Krapp in his trademark Adam-style. The recessed ceiling and ornamental panels that grace the walls are elaborately decorated with a number of motifs, including florals and geometrics. The rectangular auditorium is wider than it is deep, which allows most audience members to feel close to the stage and performers.
Details on the Imperial Theatre's Accessibility
Theatre is not completely wheelchair accessible. There are no steps into 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 (23 steps). Please Note: On the Mezzanine or Balcony level, there are approximately 2 steps up/down per row. Entrance to Front Mezzanine is behind row F.
Handrails: Available at the end of every stepped seat row in the Mezzanine.
Located in the lobby. Accessible at 54", with TTY utility outlet.
There is a wheelchair accessible restroom (unisex) located on the main level.