239 West 45th StreetNew York, NY
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Architectural Historian, Columbia University
Grandson, Irving Berlin
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
Artistic Director, American Repertory Theater
Matthew James Thomas
The Music Box was originally built in 1921 for Sam Harris, a successful Broadway producer, and his partner Irving Berlin, one of America’s greatest songwriters.
Harris built the theater specifically to house Berlin’s Music Box Revue, which played for the first four years. Harris had a remarkable record on Broadway; for the first twenty-five years of the theater, only three plays ran fewer than 100 performances. The design for the theater combines Palladian and Adamesque motifs. No expense was spared; the exterior is made exclusively of limestone, a very expensive material and unusual choice for a theater facade. Its most prominent feature is a delicate colonnade, which suggests an English country house. The interior contains extensive plaster decorations and elegant niches with murals of classical ruins, a popular subject in the eighteenth century. Irving Berlin maintained part ownership of the theater until his death in 1989 at the age of 101.
C. Howard Crane was a very successful theater architect. who designed more than two hundred theaters in the United States and many others in Canada and Great Britain.
Crane was born in Harford, Connecticut, and moved to Detroit in 1905 to apprentice with Albert Kahn. By 1909 he had established his own practice in Detroit that served as his main office the rest of his career. Well known for his expertise in theater acoustics, Crane was proficient in many different design styles. He moved to Europe in 1932 and lived in Italy before permanently moving to London. In London, he is well known for his Earls Court Exhibition Centre. To better address the effects of World War II, Crane spent the later part of his career practicing industrial design and rebuilding and modernizing factories.
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