Broadway welcomed a new theater Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Jake Gyllenhaal.
The “Brokeback Mountain” and “Nightcrawler” star was on hand with a pair of oversize golden scissors to reopen the Hudson Theatre with “Sunday in the Park with George,” the venue’s first theatrical production in nearly 50 years.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to have joy in this world and that’s what this space is and that’s what this show is all about,” Gyllenhaal said. “It’s all about love and joy so I hope people will come and experience that with us.”
Gyllenhaal helped cut a green ribbon with co-star Annaleigh Ashford, and his name will adorn a plaque commemorating the event. The ornate, refurbished theater wasn’t quite ready for its close-up, with garbage cans still in plastic in the lobby and signs still needing to be hung.
Opened in 1903 – a week before the New Amsterdam Theatre – the Hudson becomes both Broadway’s oldest theater and its newest. It’s the first new Broadway theater in almost 20 years and becomes the 41st such venue.
The Hudson sits just off Times Square – east of Broadway on 44th Street. The theater opened in 1903 with a production of “Cousin Kate” starring Ethel Barrymore. It was built by producer Henry B. Harris, who died aboard the Titanic. It was lost to foreclosure in 1933 and sold at auction for $100,000.
The Hudson changed hands many times and was a studio for CBS Radio. It was the home for the first nationwide broadcast of “The Tonight Show” starring Steve Allen and was home for a time to “The Price Is Right.” It later became a house for burlesque and then a movie house in 1968.
As a theater, it hosted Andy Warhol’s “My Hustler” in 1968, Lillian Hellman’s “Toys in the Attic” with Maureen Stapleton and Jason Robards Jr. It ceased being a home for legitimate theater in 1968.
Gyllenhaal and Ashford will share the stage that once was used by performers such as Laurence Olivier, Louis Armstrong, Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand, who made her first televised performance from the Hudson.
“We are outrageously honored to be reopening this special space with this special piece of art,” said Ashford. “We feel the ghosts of those that were before us, living and breathing and inspiring us.”
The revival of “Sunday in the Park with George” starts previews Saturday. The Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical imagines what the 19th-century French painter Georges Seurat went through to create his pointillist masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”