The Nederlander Organization will officially re-christen the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway, currently home to SIX, as the Lena Horne Theatre in an unveiling ceremony November 1. The move, which marks the first time a Broadway theatre has been named for a Black woman, was initially announced in June.
The ceremony will include a block party with a DJ, special performances, remarks, and the reveal of a new marquee, with Broadway stars in attendance.
The upcoming name change follows an agreement between Black Theater United and Broadway's three major landlords, who each agreed to rename at least one of its Broadway houses for a Black artist. The Shubert Organization unveiled the James Earl Jones Theatre (previously the Cort) earlier this year, while Jujamcyn has a venue named for the late, Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson.
Gail Lumet Buckley, Lena Horne’s daughter, and the Horne Family shared in an earlier statement, “On February 13, 1939, Brooks Atkinson wrote a review of the musical Blackbirds of 1939 for the New York Times. His review was generally unfavorable except for the mention of ‘a radiantly beautiful girl, Lena Horne, who will be a winner once she has proper direction.’ The proper direction came from within Lena herself. She sought an artistic education, and a political education. She sought her own voice, found it, and then fought for the right that was always denied her - the right to tell her own story. In 1981, James M. Nederlander offered her their stage and Lena's one woman show, The Lady and her Music ran for more than a year. 366 performances, in three countries. It was her fullest expression as an artist and storyteller. We're grateful to the Nederlander Organization for rechristening this space to the Lena Horne Theater. We hope artists and audiences alike will tell their own stories here.”
Ms. Horne, the singer and actor who broke down color barriers by becoming one of Hollywood's first African-American female stars, passed away in 2010 at the age of 92.
Ms. Horne had been nominated for a Tony Award for the hit 1957 Harold Arlen musical Jamaica, but when she burst back onto the scene as the star of her own one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, in 1981, it was as if the public was discovering her anew. Initially, the Nederlander Organization, Michael Frazier, and Fred Walker had booked her for four weeks into the Nederlander Theatre, but critics hailed her talents and the show ultimately ran for 14 months and won a Tony Award. The production was filmed for television broadcast and home video release. A tour began at Tanglewood during the July 4 weekend in 1982, and played 41 cities in the U.S. and Canada. It also played in London for a month in August, and ended its run in Stockholm, Sweden, September 14, 1984. Additionally, the cast album won a Grammy Award.
Ms. Horne's other Broadway credits included Dance With Your Gods, Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939, and Tony & Lena Sing.