A Closer Look: New Amsterdam Theater Tour (1)

Today we are going to flashback to June. The night before James and I left on our Disney Cruise out of New York City, we signed up for a behind-the-scenes tour of The New Amsterdam Theater and an evening performance of The Lion King on Broadway. Now, after I wrote a blog piece about how the Disney Company returned the New Amsterdam Theater to its former glory and also helped to clean up 42nd Street, I’ve been dying to go inside and see it for myself. Not just for a show either (it currently houses Mary Poppins). I wanted to see the details.

New Amsterdam Theater

After being nervous that enough people wouldn’t sign up and we would lose our chance to have the tour, I received my confirmation note from the Disney Cruise Line, forked over $172 a piece (this included the tour and orchestra seats to TLK), we were all set. To my surprise, our tour group consisted of our adorable and knowledgeable guide and a family of four.

That was it.

How amazing is that?

Now, eventually, I want to go back and expand on the original post I wrote about the New Amsterdam because I really find the story of this landmark so fascinating. A beautiful home to the arts that would eventually become a low-budget movie theater and a sanctuary for squatters. When Michael Eisner first came in to see the space in 1993, there was a mushroom tree growing out of the orchestra pit, it was raining inside, and the only attendees were cats, rats, and mice.

Over 18 months and with the use of 37 million dollars, the company performed an interpretive restoration. Deciding to channel the grand era when the Ziegfeld Follies performed on that stage (1913-1927), they used old pictures and journals from the Follies girls to put the theater back together again. Many of the original details of the theater were hidden during “improvements” done during its time as a movie house.

Before the theater opened back up in 1996, Disney invited the old Follies girls back and they all marveled at how it looked exactly the same as it used to.

During the tour, our guide shared some of the heartbreaking photos of the New Amsterdam in its darkest years.

A picture of what the theater looked like before its renovation.
Present Day New Amsterdam Theater.
New Amsterdam Theater
Pre-restoration, the boxes had been ripped down in the theater because they created “shadows” on the movie screen.
New Amsterdam Theater
Badly damaged staircase from the promenade (pictures 1 + 2) before the renovations in the 90s.
New Amsterdam Theater
Today’s staircase in all its natural beauty. See the squirrel?

Some fun facts about the good old NA:

  • The upstairs theater was used as a rehearsal space for the original productions of West Side Story and A Streetcar Named Desire.
  • Gypsy was also partially penned upstairs. (Sondheim!)
  • Despite the fact that pornography ran rampant in Times Square in the 60s and 70s, The New Amsterdam never showed a triple X movie. (What a relief!)

It was such a treat when we were invited to go on stage. Eek! I’ve been in plays before (and it’s always been a disaster… I played Mary in nativity production and threw up everywhere) but this was my first time up on a Broadway stage. Even with the entire place empty, it was so amazing and you could only imagine what it would be like to perform up there every single night.

Our tour guide invited us to sing so we could hear the acoustics. Thankfully, the two little girls in our group weren’t shy and jumped into a Mary Poppins tune. (Who could blame them? We were surrounded by the intricately detailed set.)

New Amsterdam Theater
Look Mom & Dad! I’m on Broadway!!

Another fun secret spot were the signed walls found on the stage. When a fun guest comes to see the show, they get to sign the wall. I’m always one for celebrity sightings so I loved checking these out. Who can you spot?

New Amsterdam Theater

Here are a few other details I couldn’t take my eyes off during our walk around the theater:

New Amsterdam Theater
Some friendly light fixtures.

Detailing in the main lobby is also beautiful. The marble panels featuring various Shakespearean scenes were hidden under mirrors and completely restored.

New Amsterdam Theater
Macbeth!

The lobby may not be much of a cliffhanger but I promise part 2 of our tour is even more fun than the first.

I absolutely can’t wait to share it with you! Look for it next week.

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

6 thoughts on “A Closer Look: New Amsterdam Theater Tour (1)

  1. What a great way to tour the theater! I hope to see the place for myself some day. It looks incredible and those old photographs of how far it had fallen really are heartbreaking.

    Michael Eisner made a lot of (to fans) aggravating decisions in the last part of his reign, but it’s good to get a look at one of the most amazing and awesome projects he ever green-lighted.

    Can’t wait for part 2!

    1. I was just thinking about that & Michael Eisner last night. I don’t agree with a lot of what he did (have you read Disney War? — great book) but this is one thing I am totally on board with and so THANKFUL for.

      Glad you liked the post, Rich! I can’t wait to share part 2 and I have a few other special Broadway-like things happening next week! Woo!

  2. Wow, what an experience! I was so blessed to have seen Mary Poppins in that gorgeous theatre in May 2010 on our honeymoon, and the beauty of the Theatre took my breathe away, as did some of the gorgeous details! Than,s for this incredible Part1, and I eagerly await Part2 of your brilliant story, thanks so much for sharing it with us =D
    -Q

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