An Autobiography: Chapter 25, Dear World

| 8/29/2012 4:35:52 PM

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Georgianna and I went to New York for our 25th wedding anniversary, and on April 14, 1969, we saw Jerry Herman’s grand musical, Dear World, starring Angela Lansbury, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. Originally built by Warner Bros. as a deluxe movie palace to showcase their films on Broadway, the theatre opened as the Warner Bros. Hollywood Theatre on April 22, 1920.

Although built as a cinema, the theatre’s stage, one of the largest on Broadway, was designed with the capacity to present large musical shows. As early as 1933, the Hollywood began presenting legitimate Broadway musicals, returning to films between live engagements. In 1948, it was renamed the Mark Hellinger Theatre, in honor of the noted Broadway journalist, and the Hellinger continued to primarily showcase musicals. The venue had its greatest success with the smash hit My Fair Lady, which ran from 1956 to 1962, with 2,717 performances.

The rococo interior is typical of the 1920s movie palace design. The coved ceiling has dozens of murals reminiscent of Boucher and Watteau, depicting 18th-century French aristocracy. The spectacular rotunda lobby is dominated by eight fluted Corinthian columns and a ceiling that is decorated with colorful murals of classical scenes. This and other interior spaces were designed by Leif  Neandross, chief designer of the Rambusch Decorating Company. The auditorium seating capacity is approximately 1,506, one of the largest in the theatre district. The stage is among the largest and best-equipped of all of New York's theaters. A large plaster-of-Paris crown rests above the proscenium.

The Nederlander Organization purchased the theater in 1970, and later sold it to the Times Square Church. They have maintained the theater's historic interior décor, and it is open to the public regularly for services and tours.

Dear World is based on Jean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot as adapted by Maurice Valency. It focuses on the Countess Aurelia, Constance and Gabrielle, who deviously scheme to stop businessmen from drilling for oil in the Parisian neighborhood of Chaillot. The forces of idealism, love and poetry win over those of greed, materialism and science.

Someone has wounded you, dear world,
Someone has poisoned you, dear world.
And those who love you definitely insist
That you get off that critical list.
So make your recovery quick world.
We want you dancing tomorrow afternoon,
So be a dear world,
Take the stitches out, dear world,
Rip the bandages off, dear world,
And get well soon!

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