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Shubert Alley

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Title: Shubert Alley  
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Shubert Alley

Shubert Alley, facing Shubert Theatre and Booth Theatre (2007)

Shubert Alley is a narrow 300-foot (91 m) long pedestrian alley at the heart of the Broadway theater district of New York City. It splits a block, as it runs parallel to and between Eighth Avenue and Broadway, linking West 44th Street to West 45th Street.[1] It contains approximately 6,400 square feet (590 m2) of public space.[2]

The alley has been considered the geographical center of "Broadway".[3] Richard Hornby wrote in 1991 that: "In New York, the desirability of a theatre is inversely proportional to its distance from Shubert Alley."[4]

The early years (1912–49)

The alley was originally built as a fire exit between the Shubert Theatre (on 44th Street) and Booth Theatre (on 45th Street), and the Astor Hotel (bounded by Broadway, Astor Plaza, and West 44th and 45th Streets), as fire laws of the time required that there be room for fire equipment in the event of an emergency.[5][6][7] The Astor Hotel, which had opened in 1904, was demolished in 1968, and its location is now occupied by the high-rise 50-story office tower, One Astor Plaza.[5]

The Shubert and Booth Theatres, which both opened in 1913, were owned by Lee and Jacob J. Shubert.[8][8][9] The alley is called the Shubert Alley because the Shuberts, who were then New York's most powerful theater owners and producers, had their offices overlooking it and rented the alley.[8] They leased it from the Astor estate in 1912, in a decades-long-lease.[10]

In the early years the alley was lined with posters of Broadway shows that were playing, the Shuberts had their limousines parked there, and the alley had gates which were locked at night.[9] It was also a gathering place for actors when shows were being cast.[11][12] Unemployed and aspiring actors hoping for a part would line its western wall.[13][14][15][16]

In 1930, its lunchtime scene was described as:

having the color of one of those street scenes from a tropical revue, churning with actors, Broadway reporters, chorus girls, and a soupcon of booking agents and costumers. A hurdy gurdy grinds out tunes, and often a street band adds oom-pahs to the medley.... There is good-natured shoving about, hoots, and back-patting. Stars are hailed by first name. Bootleggers are there with their order books. Also racing touts, with hot tips.[17]

During the Great Depression, the alley was divided by a fence. One side was used by a New Jersey bus line, as a bus terminal.[9] The other side served as egress for stage doors from the Shubert and Booth Theatres.[9] Posters were hung on the fence.[9] They became known as "three-sheets", because they were three times as tall as the "one-sheet" lobby cards.[18] When the bus terminal was removed, the posters were moved to the common side wall of the two theatres.[9] During intermissions, casts would leave the non-air-conditioned theaters for a breath of fresh air in the alley.[9] It was reported in 1939 that the actor Raymond Massey built a bowling alley in his London home, and called it "Shubert Alley".[19] A play entitled Shubert Alley was written by Mel Dinelli in 1943.[20]

Late 20th century (1950–99)

Actress Irene Dunne noted in 1950 that:

I got a shock when I found that Shubert Alley is now a smart lane of elegant small shops, instead of being the empty alley where there used to be only a couple of stage doors, parking space for producer Lee Shubert's elegant limousine, and a place where actors met to discuss which offices were casting a new show that day.[21]

In November 1959, a one-hour musical entitled Music from Shubert Alley was recorded in the alley, and broadcast on TV.[22] In 1960, singer Mel Tormé came out with an album of show tunes entitled Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley, which was arranged by Marty Paich.[23]

Modern day (2000–present)

On March 22, 2006, to mark the first anniversary of the official Broadway opening of the musical comedy Spamalot, the "World's Largest Coconut Orchestra", 1,789 people clapping together half coconut shells, performed in Shubert Alley. The claim was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.[24]

Moments after Faisal Shahzad's failed 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt, a surveillance video caught images of him walking through Shubert Alley.[25]

Today, it serves as a theatre fire exit, and can be busy with audience members during show-times and intermissions.[2][26] The One Shubert Alley memorabilia store in the alley is a converted former dressing room of the Booth Theatre.[9]

A free annual concert called "Stars in the Alley" is held in Shubert Alley the week of the Tony Awards featuring performances and celebrity guest appearances from current Broadway shows, marking the official end of the Broadway season.[27] Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has held an Annual Flea Market and Grand Auction in Shubert Alley each September since 1987, selling props, costumes, and autographed memorabilia to raise money.[28] "Broadway Barks", a charity event founded by Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore in which Broadway and other celebrities present shelter animals for adoption, has taken place annually in the alley since 1999.[29][30]

See also



  1. ^ Collins, Max (2008). Strip for Murder. Penguin. p. 3. 
  2. ^ a b Kayden, Jerold (2000). Privately owned public space. Wiley. p. 133. 
  3. ^ Hirsch, Foster (1998). The boys from Syracuse. SIU Press. 
  4. ^ Hornby, Richard (1991). "Broadway Economics". The Hudson Review 44 (3): 453–460. 
  5. ^ a b Henderson, Mary (2004). The city and the theatre. Back Stage Books. p. 172. 
  6. ^ Pederson, Jay (1998). International directory of company histories. St James Press. 
  7. ^ Roadtripping USA (2nd ed.). St Martin's press. 2007. p. 124. 
  8. ^ a b c Kissel, Howard (2007). New York theater walks. Applause. p. 47. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Botto, Louis; Viagas, Robert (2002). At this theatre. Applause. p. 79. 
  10. ^ Liebling, AJ (2008). The telephone booth Indian. Random House. p. 114. 
  11. ^ – Google News Archive SearchThe Miami News
  12. ^ Federal Writers' Project. New York City 1. US History Publishers. p. 176. 
  13. ^ – Google News Archive SearchThe Owosso Argus-Press
  14. ^ Weiner, Florence (1969). How to survive in New York with children. Corinthian Editions. 
  15. ^ Egginton, Jane; O'Donnell, Nick (2007). New York Walks. Globe Pequot. p. 58. 
  16. ^ Bird, Christiane (2006). New York State. Avalon. p. 75. 
  17. ^ – Google News Archive SearchThe Miami News
  18. ^ Bloom, Ken; Vlastnik, Frank (2004). Broadway musicals. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. p. 252. 
  19. ^ – Google News Archive SearchThe Pittsburgh Press
  20. ^ Dinelli, Mel (1943). Shubert alley: a play for women. Baker's. 
  21. ^ – Google News Archive SearchToledo Blade
  22. ^ – Google News Archive SearchThe Pittsburgh Press
  23. ^ Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley at AllMusic
  24. ^ "Spamalot cast sets coconut record". BBC News. April 23, 2007. 
  25. ^ By the CNN Wire Staff (May 2, 2010). "Day before bombing, Shahzad made a dry run in Manhattan, source says -". Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  26. ^ Steinbicker, Earl (2002). Daytrips New York. Midpoint Trade Books. p. 59. 
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ Gans, Andrew."23rd Annual Broadway Flea Market to Be Held Indoors at Roseland Ballroom", September 26, 2009
  29. ^ Donahue, Dick. "A New Tune for Bernadette Peters", Publishers Weekly, May 8, 2008
  30. ^ McNulty, Charles."Peters writes a new role for herself", Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2008

External links

  • The Shubert Organization; Architecture

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