The Shubert Organization is America's oldest professional theatre company. Over the last century, the company has owned hundreds of theatres and produced over five hundred plays and musicals. Since the 1980s, the company's ticketing service (Telecharge.com) has grown to become the leading ticket provider in New York City's thriving theatre industry.
At the end of the 19th century, three brothers, Sam, Lee and Jacob J. Shubert, from Syracuse, New York, founded the business. In 1900, Sam and Lee, followed later by Jacob J., moved to New York City and began rapidly acquiring theatres and producing shows. Among the stars featured in Shubert productions during the early years were Richard Mansfield, Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Russell, Maxine Elliot, Alla Nazimova, Eleanora Duse, Lew Fields, DeWolfe Hopper, Eddie Foy, Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, and Lulu Glaser.
In 1905, after Sam Shubert died tragically in a railroad accident, his brothers, Lee and J.J., continued to operate the business on an increasingly lavish scale. By 1916, the Shuberts had become the nation's most important and powerful theatre owners and managers.
During the teens and twenties, the Shubert brothers built many of Broadway's most important theatres-including the Winter Garden, the Sam S. Shubert and the Imperial. By the mid-twenties, the Shuberts owned, operated, managed or booked over 1,000 houses across the United States. Among the major Shubert stars of the period were Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Tallulah Bankhead, Willie and Eugene Howard, Fred and Adele Astaire, Marie Dressler, Marilyn Miller, Jeanne Eagles, Jeanette MacDonald, and Cary Grant.
Along with the rest of the nation, Shubert was impacted by the Great Depression. With some difficulty, Lee and J.J. continued to produce and, throughout the 1930s and 1940s, they presented a number of well-known musicals and revues, including the later editions of the Ziegfeld Follies, Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), At Home Abroad (1935), The Show is On (1937), Hellzapoppin' (1938), Cole Porter's You Never Know (1938),The Straw Hat Revue (1939), Streets of Paris (1939) and Sons o' Fun(1941); as well as the popular straight plays Ten Little Indians (1944) and Dark of the Moon (1945). Shubert stars at this time included Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Bert Lahr, Bea Lillie, Ray Bolger, Bobby Clark, Imogene Coca, Olsen & Johnson, Gypsy Rose Lee, Ruth Gordon, and Carmen Miranda.
Although the company was minimally involved in theatrical production in the 1950s and 1960s, Shubert returned to producing full time in the 1970s and has many outstanding and award-winning shows to its credit, including The Act (1977), Ain't Misbehavin' (1978), Amadeus (1981),Amour (2002), Amy's View (1999), Angels Fall (1983), As Is (1985), Big Deal (1986), The Blue Room (1998), Children of a Lesser God (1980),City of Angels (1989), Closer (1999), Dancin' (1978), Dreamgirls (1981),A Few Good Men (1989), The Gin Game (1977), Glengarry Glen Ross(1984), Good (1982), The Grapes of Wrath (1990), The Heidi Chronicles(1989), Indiscretions (1995), Jerome Robbins' Broadway (1989), Lettice & Lovage (1990), The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1981),"Master Harold"...and the Boys (1982), A Moon for the Misbegotten(1984), 'night, Mother (1983), Passion (1994), The Real Thing (1984),The Secret Rapture (1989), Skylight (1996), Song & Dance (1985),Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Tru (1989), along with revivals of Joe Egg (1985), The Most Happy Fella (1992), and An Inspector Calls (1994). The Shuberts also produced the Off-Broadway hit, Little Shop of Horrors (1982), and other Off-Broadway shows, such as Nixon's Nixon (1996) and Stupid Kids (1998). And on June 19, 1997, Cats, with performance number 6,138, became the longest-running musical in Broadway history.
In 1973, the company was reorganized as The Shubert Organization, under the direction of Gerald Schoenfeld, Chairman, and Bernard B. Jacobs, President. Today, the Organization owns and operates seventeen Broadway theatres in New York City—the Ambassador, Barrymore, Belasco, Booth, Broadhurst, Broadway, Cort, Golden, Imperial, Bernard B. Jacobs, Longacre, Lyceum, Majestic, Music Box, Gerald Schoenfeld, Shubert, and Winter Garden. Shubert’s Off-Broadway theatres in New York City are Stage 42, on West 42nd Street’s Theatre Row, and New World Stages, a five theatre complex on West 50th Street. The Shubert Organization also owns and operates the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia.
In 1996, Shubert lost its President, Bernard B. Jacobs, and on September 17th of that year, Gerald Schoenfeld announced the appointments of Philip J. Smith as President and Robert E. Wankel as Executive Vice President of The Shubert Organization. In 2008, Gerald Schoenfeld passed away, and the board of directors appointed Smith as Chairman and Co-CEO, and Wankel as President and Co-CEO. In 2020, Philip J. Smith stepped down and took the role of Chairman Emeritus; Robert E. Wankel was named Chairman and CEO. Smith passed away in January 2021.
In the last three decades, The Shubert Organization has dedicated its energies and resources to a long-term campaign for the revitalization of the American theatre. Its many projects have included the refurbishment of all Shubert playhouses, devoted participation in civic and community affairs, and a continuing effort to rehabilitate the Times Square Theatre District. Today, under the helm of Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel, Shubert moves into the future seeking new opportunities and challenges.