SEATING CAPACITY: 1265
The gothic interior boasted stained glass, vaulted cathedral ceiling and hand-painted interior.
The first production featured the first woman to appear topless on an American stage and the American debut of Cary Grant
With the stock market crash, Hammerstein lost the theater only a couple of years after opening. The playhouse was next converted into the Manhattan Casino in early 1934. The repeal of prohibition in the previous year had popularized continental music halls where guests could enjoy stage reviews while drinking and dining. This new form of entertainment was especially attractive to mobsters like Lucky Luciano who were now forced to find legal outlets for their former bootlegging activities. They legitimatized their operations by associating with the celebrated producer-songwriter Billy Rose. During that year, Rose moved his enormously successful operation into the Casino, renaming it Billy Roses’ Music Hall. According to its new namesake, the casino would be offering “honky tonk on a cosmic scale…the apotheosis of popular priced amusement. It will be the nuts.” The casino immediately established itself as one of the hottest night spots in New York. When Billy Rose became estranged from the theater in late 1934, vaudeville continued in the renamed Manhattan Music Hall. It was soon replaced, however, by a short revival of legitimate theater under the WPA and subsequently used by CBS as a radio playhouse. It opened with Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour, succeeded by the classic Fred Allen Show.
Its television debut came on June 20, 1948, with Toast of the Town (later The Ed Sullivan Show). Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s the theater continued to house Ed Sullivan.
The theatre was landmarked in 1988 and shortly after, Captain New York took possession and undertook a plan to restore the theater in deference to the unique architecture and history it embodies. The project included not only restoring the theater but installing America’s first complete HD television production facility.
In 1993, CBS bought the theatre to house The Late Show with David Letterman.