226 West 46th StreetNew York, NY
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Senior Vice President, Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
Matthew A. Postal
Historian, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
Executive Vice President, Nederlander Organization
Previously called Chanin’s 46th Street Theatre, it was the first theater built by the Chanin organization, in 1925.
Founded by Irwin S. Chanin, owner of a major New York construction company, the organization began building theaters in the 1920s. Chanin did not have much money growing up and he was intent on democratizing the theatergoing experience so that all patrons—those paying higher prices for the best seats and those sitting in the less expensive seats—would all enter through the same door. Theater architect Herbert J. Krapp achieved Chanin’s goal at the Richard Rodgers. He also pioneered stadium seating, which gave the audience better site lines and acoustics. The orchestra was raked steeply upwards at the rear, rising over the entrance lobby with one large balcony above.
While Krapp’s theaters for the Shuberts were simply designed, his theaters for the Chanins were more elaborate; they included Renaissance-style brick and terra-cotta facades. This theater was landmarked for its elaborate facade, which featured a triple-arched loggia set within a colonnade of five Corinthian pilasters and adorned with terra-cotta ornamentation including theatrical masks. Other significant architectural features included a domed ceiling and ornate plasterwork on the proscenium arch, boxes, and balcony front. Continuously operated as a legitimate theater, it has been home to some of Broadway’s greatest hits: Damn Yankees, On Your Toes, Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Nine. Purchased by the Nederlander organization in 1982, it was renamed the Richard Rodgers in 1990 to honor the great composer.
Herbert J. Krapp was the most prolific theater designer on Broadway; he was the architect for fifteen of the remaining Broadway theaters. Krapp studied at Cooper Union and started his career at Herts & Tallant, where he met the Shubert brothers.
Krapp became the Shubert brothers’ house architect and designed twelve theaters for them. He also designed six theaters for the Chanin brothers. Krapp was famous for his ability to work with low budgets and small or awkward plots of land. For example, Krapp designed a diagonal floor plan for the Ambassador Theatre to fit it into an awkward space.
He innovated the use of stadium seating, first seen in the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Krapp often used most of his budget on the interiors of his theaters. While he left the exteriors relatively bare, he used elaborate brickwork to add visual interest for a small cost. Examples of this brickwork can be seen on the exteriors of the Broadhurst and the Gerald Schoenfeld Theaters. Krapp's career as a theater designer ended with the bust of the theater boom during the Depression. He transitioned to industrial design and became a building assessor for New York City. He also continued to work with the Shuberts until 1963 as the supervisor of existing venue maintenance and renovations.
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Samuel J. Friedman