Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Majestic Sight

Majestic Theatre at Columbus Circle (circa late 1903.)

The Broadway Wizard of Oz musical opened at the Majestic Theatre on Columbus Circle on January 21, 1903. In fact, Wizard was the show that inaugurated the theatre.

Many online sources confuse this original Majestic Theatre with the current one, which was built in 1927 and housed the premieres of Carousel, South Pacific, The Music Man, and The Wiz—and which has been the home of Phantom of the Opera for the last three decades

The original Majestic, the one built in 1903, was demolished in 1954 and replaced by the New York Coliseum. In 2000 the Coliseum was itself torn down and replaced by the Time Warner Center, which, interestingly, much more closely matches the original curving facade of the Majestic Theatre.

There are a handful of period photographs of the Majestic in 1903 and 1904 showing advertising either for The Wizard of Oz or for Babes in Toyland. By all accounts the 1354 seat theatre was a state of the art venue - with no columns obstructing sight-lines, an electric stage lighting system, and air conditioning.

The northeast facing walls of the theatre provided space for painting large-scale ads for the shows that played at the theatre. You can see a wonderful example below, catching the painters covering the Wizard of Oz advertising with Babes in Toyland advertising in October 1903.

Babes in Toyland advertising replacing Wizard of Oz advertising in October 1903.

But there is still another way to catch a few glimpses of the legendary Broadway landmark. You can see the Majestic for a few fleeting seconds in the 1949 technicolor movie musical On the Town (see below) when a taxi drops off the three sailors at Columbus Circle.

Majestic Theatre visible in background in the 1949 film On The Town.

The Majestic almost has a starring role in the 1954 Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon film It Should Happen to You in which Gladys Glover (played by Holliday) tries to make a name for herself by renting ad space on the side of the Majestic Theatre to launch her career as a celebrity.

Majestic Theatre is prominently featured in the 1954 film It Should Happen to You.

The Majestic underwent multiple name changes over the years and by 1954 it was known as the NBC Television Theatre and was the home of Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows.

Majestic Theatre renamed NBC Television Theatre

I had never heard of It Should Happen to You until several years ago when a friend told me of the connection to the Majestic Theatre. If you like classic old comedies in the Frank Capra vein, I highly recommend it. Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon are wonderful. The film has a very funny screenplay by Garson Kanin, and it's directed by George Cukor! What's not to like? I'm surprised the film isn't better known.

We'll explore the Majestic Theatre in more detail in future posts.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

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