The Walt Disney Company treated me to a tour of their historic New Amsterdam Theater and without the audience, I really got a chance to look at the marvelous architecture and artwork. I could have spent hours inside and I would have loved to have gone backstage, but although Monday’s are generally dark days, this particular Monday rehearsals were going on for a charity show.
Lucky for me though, as I got to see another Broadway show’s cast at work. Brilliant! After watching the rehearsal and seeing the performers create the piece on the spot, we continued our tour of this stunning piece of art.
The building was opened in 1903 with a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Unfortunately the show was the worst attending critics had seen, but they loved the theatre. The art nouveau floral and fauna style theatre, the only one in NYC, is simply stunning. With its sage greens, soft mauves, and golds, it is perfection. So much so that it gained the nickname “The House Beautiful,” by the New York Times; a name it still goes by today.
Unfortunately, the building fell into disrepair during the depression and for a time it was converted into a movie theater. In 1983, Disney began working with the City and State of New York to revitalize the theatre. When the abandoned building was opened for their first look, they discovered that the roof had failed and not only had nearly every inch of the building and every piece of artwork been damaged by water, there were also rats, birds, and more living within its walls. It took some time to restore and recreate what was lost, but in doing so, the old theater was brought back to its former glory and the restoration spawned a neighborhood revitalization.
The original ornate elevator doors still greet guests in the main hall although the interiors and mechanical have been changed out with state-of-the-art features including flat screen monitors and 21st century safety features. The other areas of this historic building have been treated in the same manner and the preservation was done beautifully to my eye.
The tour, which may be available to the public soon and is currently available to groups, also includes a hands-on experience were participants are allowed to handle, photograph, and try on props from such distinguished Disney Broadway shows as “Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aida,” and more. We had great fun posing and checking out the magic and make-believe that is worked by the costume and set designers with the fun props Disney made available.
Should you get a chance to take the backstage tour of the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway I suggest a digital or video camera and then get ready to be transported back in time and maybe hear a ghost story or two.
Special thanks to the Walt Disney Company and Disney Broadway for allowing me to see the show and sample the tour as their guest. All opinions are my own.