The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (formerly the Royale) was originally built in 1927 by real-estate magnates, the Chanin Brothers, as part of a three-theatre complex that also included the Majestic (a large musical house) and the Theatre Masque, now the John Golden (a small house). The three theatres enabled producers to move shows based on their ticket sales to the most appropriately-sized venue. In 1930, the Chanins transferred ownership of all three houses to the Shuberts. During the Depression, control of the Jacobs passed to John Golden, who renamed the theatre after himself and ran it from 1934 to 1936. The Shuberts regained control in 1936, restored its name to Royale, and leased it to CBS as a radio studio until 1940. It was renamed the Bernard B. Jacobs in 2005 to honor the president of the Shubert Organization from 1972 - 1996.
As a midsized house, the Jacobs has been home to both plays and musicals The musical Piggy (1927, aka I Told You So) was the inaugural production, followed by two musicals: Oh, Ernest! (1927), and the Shubert-produced musical The Madcap (1928). But a non-musical was the theatre's first hit: Mae West’s Diamond Lil (1928). West returned in The Constant Sinner three years later. Other notable shows of the 1930s include When Ladies Meet (1932) and two Theatre Guild productions: Maxwell Andersons Pulitzer Prize-winning Both Your Houses (1933), and John Wexley’s They Shall Not Die (1934), inspired by the story of the Scottsboro boys.
In the 1940s, the Jacobs housed some long-running hits and critically-acclaimed productions. Cole Porter’s Du Barry Was a Lady (1940), featuring Gypsy Rose Lee, Bert Lahr, and Betty Grable, moved from the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers). Ethel Barrymore starred in another transfer to the Jacobs: The Corn is Green (1941). Three Elmer Rice plays followed: Flight to the West (1941), Counsellor-At-Law (1942), and A New Life (1943). John Gielgud graced the stage in four productions: The Importance of Being Earnest (1947), Love for Love (1947), Medea (1947), and The Lady’s Not for Burning (1950). Other significant plays include Mae West in Catherine Was Great (1944) and Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (1946).
The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s witnessed some significant theatrical hisory: Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend (1954); Ruth Gordon starred in The Matchmaker (1955); Lawrence Olivier played a song and dance man in The Entertainer (1958); and Bette Davis played in The Night of the Iguana (1961). Other productions include Gloria Swanson in Nina (1951), Geraldine Page and James Dean in The Immoralist (1954), From Second City (1961), The Subject Was Roses (1964), Cactus Flower (1965), and The Man in the Glass Booth (1968). Grease (1972) transferred to the Jacobs and, in its day, surpassed Fiddler on the Roof as the longest running show on Broadway.
In 1980, Mary Tyler Moore starred in a gender-reversed return engagement of Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1980). This was followed by A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (1980) directed by Tommy Tune. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1982) transferred from Off Broadway, and his Song and Dance (1985) featured a Tony-winning performance by Bernadette Peters. Madonna made her Broadway debut in David Mamet’s Speed the Plow (1988), and in the following year, Philip Bosco, Victor Garber, and Tovah Feldshuh starred in Lend Me A Tenor (1989). Shows of the 1990s included Conversations with My Father (1992) featuring Judd Hirsch, the Shubert co-produced An Inspector Calls (1994), and Yasmina Reza’s Art(1998).
The 2000’s began with Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen (2000), the Pulitzer Prize winner Anna in the Tropics (2003), and acclaimed revivals of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (2001), The Elephant Man (2002), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2003), A Raisin in the Sun (2004) starring Sean Combs, and David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). Julia Roberts made her Broadway debut in the New York premier of Three Days of Rain (2006), followed by Frost/Nixon (2007) with Frank Langella, Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll (2007) and the Tony Award winning Best Play God of Carnage (2009).
The second decade of the 2000s brought the Jacobs the rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2010), a revival of That Championship Season (2011), Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset in The Mountaintop (2011), and the Tony Award winning musical Once (2012).
Herbert J. Krapp designed the Jacobs and the other theatres in this complex under the unifying theme of “modern Spanish style.” The theatre's interior features a groin-vaulted ceiling supported on either side by archways decorated with two murals entitled "Lovers of Spain," by Willy Pogany.
Details on the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre's Accessibility
Theatre is not completely wheelchair accessible.
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 Second Level, up 3 short flights of stairs (29 steps). Once on the Mezzanine Level there are approximately 2 steps up/down per row.
Handrails: Available at the end of every stepped seat row in the Mezzanine.
Located in the lobby. Accessible at 54".
Wheelchair accessible (unisex) restroom located on the Orchesta level.
Located in restrooms.