Cort Theatre

138W 48th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Ave.s) / NYC

The Cort Theatre was built by and named for John Cort, general manager of the Northwestern Theatrical Association, a theatre circuit centered in Seattle with playhouses scattered throughout the western US and British Columbia. A fugitive from a vaudeville comedy team called Cort and Murphy, Cort moved from performing to management in the 1890s. The Shuberts acquired the theatre in 1927, two years before Cort’s death.

The venue's initial production was Peg o’ My Heart (1912), starring Laurette Taylor and directed by Oliver Morosco. John Cort’s first production at the theatre was The Princess Pat (1915), an operetta, and the first of only 12 musicals to play here (4 were produced by Cort himself). The longest running musical at this theatre was The Magic Show (1974), which ran 1,920 performances. Three recent musical productions include Sarafina (1988), Kat and the Kings (1999), and A Year with Frog and Toad (2002).

Early non-musical hits at the Cort gave it the reputation of being a “lucky” house. They include Roi Cooper Megrue’s first big hit, Under Cover (1914), John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln (1919) starring Frank McGlynn, and George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly’s Merton of the Movies (1922) with Glenn Hunter. The Cort also featured performers such as Ethel Barrymore and Henry Daniell in The Second Mrs. Tanquerray (1924), Judith Anderson in Behold the Bridegroom (1927), and Katharine Hepburn in These Days (1928)--The actress had only a few lines, and the play closed after 8 performances.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Cort welcomed shows such as classic works. Lillian Gish, Osgood Perkins and Walter Connelly in Uncle Vanya (1930), Ruth Gordon in The Three-Cornered Moon (1933), and Lawrence Olivier in The Green Bay Tree (1933). The Theatre Guild presented The Winter’s Tale (1946) and Wesley Addy, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Marlon Brando were featured in Antigone and Candida, produced in repertory in 1946. Eva Le Gallienne translated and starred in Ibsen’s Ghosts and Hedda Gabler (1948), and Grace Kelly made her Broadway debut in Strindberg’s The Father (1949).

Among the notable stars and productions of the 1950s and 1960s were Katharine Hepburn and William Prince in As You Like It (1950); Saint Joan (1951) with Uta Hagen; the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Shrike (1952) featuring José Ferrer; Darren McGavin and Geraldine Page in The Rainmaker (1954); The Diary of Anne Frank (1955); Purlie Victorious (1961) with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; and Sunday in New York (1961) with Robert Redford. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest had a short run of only 82 performances at the Cort in 1963, but bolstered the careers of Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder. Jane Fonda made her Broadway debut in There Was A Little Girl (1960), and Al Pacino starred in Richard III (1969).

Productions of the 1980s and 1990s include Tennesee Williams’s Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980), Glenda Jackson and Jessica Tandy in Rose (1981), Zoe Caldwell in Medea (1982), The Grapes of Wrath (1990), Twilight, Los Angeles (1994), Cherry Jones in The Heiress (1995), Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter (1997), John Leguizamo in Freak (1998), and Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room (1998).

The Cort also hosted the Julie Taymor-directed The Green Bird (2000) and the Carol Burnett-penned Hollywood Arms (2002). More recently, it has also been home to a revival of On Golden Pond (2005) with James Earl Jones, Douglas Carter Beane’s comedy The Little Dog Laughed (2006), August Wilson’s final play Radio Golf (2007), and Will Ferrell's You're Welcome America (2009).

Programs available onsite from this theatre:

  • Abraham Lincoln / 1920
  • Boy Meets Girl / 1936
  • Diary of Anne Frank / 1955
  • Sunrise at Campobello / 1958
  • The Hostage / 1960

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