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Ambassador Theater History
The Shuberts built the Ambassador on 49th Street, west of Broadway, which they planned to transform into a theatrical center to rival 42nd Street. The theatre did well in its first decade featuring operettas like Sigmund Romberg’s “Blossom Time” (1921) and Victor Herbert’s “Dream Girl” (1925}. The 1930’s were dominated by revivals, popular productions like the “Straw Hat Review” (1939), which featured breakout performances by such newcomers as Imogene Coca, Danny Kaye, Alfred Drake, and Jerome Robbins.
After the Shuberts sold the building in 1935, the theatre was used as a movie house, radio and television studios, as well as for some theatrical productions. It was repurchased by the Shubert organization in 1956 and immediately reverted to legitimate uses exclusively. The Ambassador opened successes like “The Lion in Winter” (1966}, “Eubie” (1978} and the outrageous “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in the Funk” (1996).
The Ambassador is noteworthy primarily for its rounded east corner and manipulation of the patternwork, overlaying the bricks to create a false cornice and dividing the blank bay by blind arches. In an effort to gain maximum usable space, the auditorium was sited diagonally, with the box office vestibule located in the southeast corner and the stage in the northeast corner of the building. The balcony stairs were placed in the other corners, giving the auditorium the shape of an elongated hexagon. The rich interior features cameos, swags, and surface contours and an oval-shaped dome that serve to enhance the acoustics of the auditorium. The Ambassador was designated a New York City Landmark in 1987.
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