261 West 47th StreetNew York, NY
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John Lee Beatty
Executive Producer, Manhattan Theatre Club
Artistic Director, Manhattan Theatre Club
The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, originally the Biltmore, was the second theater built by the Chanin organization.
Designed by Herbert J. Krapp, the interior plan was unusual in that it sat slightly askew on the site and the auditorium was rectangular with a horseshoe at one end and the proscenium arch at the other. The ornamentation was in the Adamesque, or eighteenth-century neoclassical, style used frequently by Krapp. In 1987 the interior of the theater was destroyed by fire and remained vacant for fourteen years until the Manhattan Theatre Club, a subscription-based nonprofit organization rescued it and extensively renovated it. The theater reopened in 2003 with Violet Hour. Five years later it was renamed for Samuel J. Friedman, the first theatrical press agent to have a theater named in his honor. Dedicated to nurturing and promoting new American plays, the Manhattan Theatre Club has presented such productions as Rabbit Hole, Reckless, Doubt, and Time Stands Still.
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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