Monday, June 15, 2009

Mae West: Shubert and Herts

In June 1919 MAE WEST was wrapping up a successful long-running engagement in "Sometime," a musical comedy.
• • It was on Saturday 4 October 1918 that "Sometime," the "musical comedy of commerce" designed to showcase the talents of laughmeister Ed Wynn, had opened at the Shubert Theatre (establishing a nice healthy wartime run that continued for eight months at the Shubert brothers' flagship: 225 West 44th Street).
• • At 25 years old, Mae West was still much more accustomed to appearing in vaudeville than in the legit. In "Sometime," it was Mae's character Mayme Dean who appeared onstage first. At that point in her career, Mae had often been cast as an Irish maid — — although Mayme Dean is a frisky flapper who cannot land a man.
• • The red velvet curtain came down during June 1919, after the show had done big box office for 283 performances.
• • Even though the blockbuster hit closed, fortunately, the stately playhouse lives on.
• • Henry Beaumont Herts • •
• • Engineered by Henry Beaumont Herts [23 January 1871 — 27 March 1933], an architect, painter, sculptor, and craftsman — — who was a student when he won the prestigious design competition for the graceful triumphal arch that once graced West 59th Street by Columbus Circle — — the Shubert Theatre was opened in September 1913. In 1911 Herts had ended his partnership with Hugh Tallent and teamed up with Herbert J. Krapp, who had been their assistant. Together they produced the Booth, its companion the Shubert, and the Longacre Theaters. A native New Yorker who studied architecture and fine art abroad as well as in his hometown, Henry Beaumont Herts's first huge success on Broadway came during the early years of the new century. In his New Amsterdam Theater, completed in 1902, a cantilever balcony was used for the first time.
• • Ninety years ago today, a lithe and lovely Mae West (not yet buxom nor "cantilevered") was packing away her Mayme Dean dreams in a scrapbook. Did she suspect that she would return to this theatre for future successes as both an author and the marquee name?
• • This August the Mae West walking tour will meet in front of Shubert Alley and offer deeper dish — — amid a dazzling display of Mae-memorabilia.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1919 • •
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