Manhattan Theatre - Early History

Early History

During its first two decades of existence, the theatre played host to many of the finest plays and works of musical theatre of the times, including several of the authorized American premieres of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas in the 1880s, often starring Geraldine Ulmar, Fred Billington, George Thorne and Courtice Pounds. Other Notable performers on its stage in these years included Marie Fedor, Emily Stevens and Tyrone Power, Sr. Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience was the theatre's biggest money spinner of the 1880s, running for 177 performances in 1891–92 and earning $100,000. Charlie's Aunt opened at the theatre in 1893.

In 1898, William Brady and Florenz Ziegfeld took over the theatre, renaming it the Manhattan Theatre. Possibly the Theatre's biggest coup was the world premiere of Way Down East, the melodramatic stage play written by Charlotte Blair Parker, which proved to be one of the biggest American stage success of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Opening on February 7, 1898, the play ran for 152 performances, ending in June, 1898. Among other early productions was Lover's Lane, a 1901 production on rural life, that starred Lillian Lee in the role of Mrs. Jennings.

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