Cultural Heritage Tours


Downtown Tour

Shubert Theater and Maurice Bailey

247 College Street

Shubert Theater, c. 1930s. Courtesy Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven Archives.

Maurice Bailey, c. 1947. Courtesy New Haven Museum.

The Shubert Theater was opened in 1914 by the Shubert Brothers and named in memory of their deceased brother, Sam S. Shubert. It was designed by architect Albert Swazey of New York and seated 1500 people. The first show was “The Belle of Bond Street” starring Broadway comedian Sam Bernard. Seats for the opening engagement were priced from 25 cents to $1.50. From its very first season, the Shubert Theatre has been a performing arts center presenting plays, musicals, opera, dance, classical music recitals and concerts, vaudeville, jazz artists, big bands, burlesque, and a variety of solo performances. The Shubert brothers ran the theater from 1914 through the 1940-41 season, establishing the pattern of try-outs. Of the fourteen musicals in the first season, four were new shows that played the Shubert before opening in New York. The theater was re-opened in 1941 by a New Haven corporation headed by Maurice H. Bailey who owned several motion pictures theaters, including the Whalley Theater, which he had opened in the 1920s. His parents had been Russian Jewish immigrants, and his father died when Maurice was twelve years old. The Shubert quickly became the theater of choice to try out new productions drawing many famous performers, writers, directors and producers, including almost all of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and became known as “The Birthplace of the Nation’s Greatest Hits.” From its original mission as a Broadway tryout house, the theater has evolved into the Shubert Performing Arts Center, a not-for-profit community resource that serves as the heartbeat of the region’s cultural life.

Maurice Bailey also contributed to the community as a leader on the New Haven Board of Finance, as Chairman of the Board of the Jewish Home for the Aged and as Building Chair for Congregation B’nai Jacob when their new Woodbridge synagogue was built, opening in 1961.

  • Text source courtesy Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven Archives.

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