The Nederlander, which first opened in 1921, has had a long and distinguished history as the National Theatre, the Billy Rose, and the Trafalgar until it was renamed the Nederlander in 1980 in honor of the late David Tobias Nederlander.
The most recent productions at this theatre include War Paint; Motown: The Musical; Disaster!; Amazing Grace; Honeymoon in Vegas; Newsies: The Musical; Million Dollar Quartet; Brighton Beach Memoirs; and Guys and Dolls. Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Rent (5,123 performances) opened here in 1996 and closed in 2008. Previous productions include Solitary Confinement; Our Country’s Good; Dangerous Games; Sherlock’s Last Case; the musicals Raggedy Ann and Wind in the Willows; Glenda Jackson in Strange Interlude; Peter Ustinov’s Beethoven’s
Tenth; 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Ellen Burstyn and Joseph Maher; and Amen Corner. In 1981, Lena Horne dazzled audiences in her one-woman show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, for which she won a special Tony Award.
During its time as the Trafalgar, this theatre housed two British hits: Whose Life Is It Anyway? starring Tom Conti (Tony), and Harold Pinter’s Betrayal starring Raúl Juliá, Blythe Danner, and Roy Scheider.
Productions here when it was the Billy Rose Theatre included Brian Bedford and Jill Clayburgh in Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers (1974); Pinter’s Old Times starring Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, and Rosemary Harris (1971); Peter Brook’s acclaimed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1971); Brian Bedford and Tammy Grimes in Noël Coward’s Private Lives (1969); Uta Hagen and George Grizzard in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962); and Heartbreak House, with Maurice Evans leading an all-star cast (1959).
In its many years as the National Theatre, this house offered such distinguished fare as Inherit the Wind (806 performances); Margaret Sullavan and Joseph Cotten in Sabrina Fair (1953); Katharine Cornell in The Constant Wife (1951); Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Lilli Palmer, and Arthur Treacher in Caesar and Cleopatra (1949); John Garfield in The Big Knife (1949); Carol Channing in Lend an Ear (1948); Judith Anderson (Tony Award) in Medea(1947); the hit military revue Call Me Mister (1946); Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson in Macbeth (1941); and Ethel Barrymore in The Corn Is Green (1940).
There were hits galore at the National in the 1930s: Tallulah Bankhead and Patricia Collinge in The Little Foxes(1939); Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players in Julius Caesar and The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1938); Gertrude Lawrence and Noël Coward in Tonight at 8:30 (1936); Raymond Massey and Ruth Gordon in Ethan Frome (1936); Lillian Gish in Within the Gates (1934); and Grand Hotel, starring Eugenie Leontovich and Sam Jaffe, which had the first revolving stage used in a Broadway play.
In the 1920s, Harry Houdini performed here, and hit plays included Ann Harding in The Trial of Mary Dugan(1927); Spencer Tracy in Yellow (1926); Florence Eldridge in The Cat and the Canary (1921); and Sidney Howard’s Swords, which opened the National Theatre on September 1, 1921. Howard married his leading lady, Clare Eames, and the marriage lasted far longer than the play, which ran for only 36 performances.