The Al Hirschfeld Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 302 West 45th Street in midtown Manhattan.
Designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh for vaudeville promoter Martin Beck, the theatre opened as the Martin Beck Theatre with a production of Madame Pompadour on November 11, 1924. It was the only theatre in New York that was owned outright without a mortgage. It was designed to be the most opulent theatre of its time, and has dressing rooms for 200 actors. The theatre has a seating capacity of 1,424 for musicals.
Famous appearances include Basil Rathbone as Romeo with Katharine Cornell as Juliet in December 1934; Richard Gere in Bent; Frank Langella in Dracula; Elizabeth Taylor in The Little Foxes; Christina Applegate as the title role in Sweet Charity; David Hyde Pierce as Lt. Coffi in the musical Curtains; and Daniel Radcliffe in the 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
On June 21, 2003, it was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in honor of the caricaturist famous for his drawings of Broadway celebrities, and reopened on November 23, 2003, with a revival of the musical Wonderful Town.
This is one of five theatres owned and operated by Jujamcyn Theatres, who purchased it in 1965 from the Beck family.
In the Fall of 2002, Jujamcyn Theatres announced that the Martin Beck Theatre would be renamed in June 2003 in honor of illustrator Al Hirschfeld, as Hirschfeld approached his 100th birthday. Notably, Hirschfeld has become the only visual artist to have a Broadway theater named after him. In order to reflect how Hirschfeld’s career spanned the Martin Beck’s years of operation, a gallery was installed in the mezzanine which features 22 reproductions of the artist’s drawings portraying plays and actors who appeared at the theater.
Although Hirschfeld died prior to the official renaming on June 23, 2003, he knew that he would be receiving the honor. A celebration and tribute to Hirschfeld was held on the evening of the renaming, featuring performers such as Carol Channing, Matthew Broderick, Barbara Cook, playwright Arthur Miller, and many other figures drawn by Hirschfeld during their careers. Hirschfeld’s traditional aisle seat was left vacant in his honor during the presentation. The tribute opened with a screen projection of Hirschfeld’s Self-Portrait As An Inkwell, in which the artist portrays himself in his creative process and showcases his distinctive use of crow quill pen and Higgins India Ink in his drawings.
The theater constructed a new marquee to mark its renaming, featuring an illuminated version of Hirschfeld’s Self-Portrait As An Inkwell. West 45th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues was closed to traffic for the unveiling of the new marquee.