Broadway and West End theatre marquees will dim their lights in memory of a true theatrical legend — James M. Nederlander (Jimmy), Chairman of the Nederlander Organization passed away on Monday, July 25, 2016 at age 94 in Southampton, NY.
Jimmy was a visionary theatrical impresario who built one of the largest private live entertainment companies in the world.
Founded by his father, David T. Nederlander, the Nederlander Organization began in 1912 with the purchase of a 99-year lease on the old Detroit Opera House. In 1937, 17-year-old Jimmy left school to join the family business — sweeping the lobby, working as an usher and a stagehand and selling tickets in the box office.
Although Jimmy Nederlander planned to study law, World War II changed his plans and he joined the Army Air Corps. By 1943, Jimmy was in New York City as a serviceman and worked as box-office treasurer for a production of Moss Hart’s Winged Victory.
In 1964, his father bought the Palace Theatre from RKO for $1.6 million, a historic vaudeville house that had gone into decline. After a two-year renovation, the Nederlander Organization reopened the Palace with Bob Fosse’s production of Sweet Charity, starring Gwen Verdon.
After his father died in 1967, Jimmy Nederlander, took over the family business.
As the Nederlander Organization assembled the chain of New York theatre venues, they often competed with the long established Shubert Organization. The rivalry grew to a peak in the 1980s, but calmed by 2000 as both companies had prospered during the revival of Broadway and New York City during the 1990s.
Jimmy Nederlander was known for his wisecracking persona which inspired affection..
“There’s no limit to the number of people
who won’t buy tickets for a show
they don’t want to see.”
James M. (Jimmy) Nederlander
The Nederlander Organization became one of the largest producers of live entertainment and a dominant national theatre chain that today includes 9 Broadway houses:
- Brooks Atkinson Theatre
- Gershwin Theatre
- Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
- Marquis Theatre
- Minskoff Theatre
- Nederlander Theatre
- Neil Simon Theatre
- Palace Theatre
- Richard Rodgers Theatre
Outside New York, Nederlander Organization venues include
- Auditorium Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA)
- The PrivateBank Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA)
- Broadway Playhouse (Chicago, IL, USA)
- Cadillac Palace Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA)
- Oriental Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA)
- Hollywood Pantages Theatre (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
- City National Grove of Anaheim (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
- Skyline Theatre at Long Center (Austin, TX, USA)
- Fisher Theatre (Detroit, MI, USA)
- City National Civic of San Jose (San Jose, CA, USA)
- Adelphi (London, England)
- Aldwych (London, England)
- Dominion (London, England)
“He was my best friend, and partner
in every aspect of our business,
we collaborated every day.
The world has lost one of its great impresarios,”
James L. Nederlander
Born March 31, 1922, in Detroit, to Sarah and James Nederlander, Jimmy Nederlander produced or co-produced more than 100 shows including Annie, (he invested $250,000 because he liked its director, Mike Nichols), Copenhagen, Me and My Girl, Applause, The Will Rogers Follies, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, La Cage aux Folles, Nine, Noises Off and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
Among his many accolades, Jimmy Nederlander received a Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2004, as well as The Broadway League’s Distinguished Lifetime Service Award (2002) and Schoenfeld Vision for Arts in Education Award (2010).
With Jimmy Nederlander’s son Jimmy Jr. currently overseeing the organization’s daily operation, the Nederlander Organization has passed the baton to a third generation. Nederlander is also survived by his wife, Charlene S. Nederlander; daughter-in-law Margo M. Nederlander; his grandchildren, James M. Nederlander II and Kathleen M. Nederlander; his stepdaughter, Kristina Gustafson; and her children, Gunnar and Krisanna Gustafson.
Funeral services are Thursday July 28, 2016 at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking donations be made to the Nederlander Research Foundation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, or the Actors Fund of America in the name of James M. Nederlander.
Venues across the West End and on Broadway will be dimming their lights in his honor on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed at exactly 7:45 p.m. for one minute, and dimmed on the West End in London at 7 p.m. before the evening’s performances commence.
Truly the end of a theatrical era. R.I.P. Jimmy, you’ve earned it.
UPDATE: Playbill reports from the funeral service… http://www.playbill.com :
Among the mourners: Philip Smith, Rocco Landesman, Paul Libin, Robert Wankel, Charlotte St. Martin, Philip Birsh, George Lane, Terry Allen Kramer, Stewart F. Lane, Emanuel Azenberg, Nick Scandalios, Jamie deRoy, Nick Wyman, Stephen Bogardus, Jeff Calhoun, Tom Viertel, John Hart, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, James Lapine, Chris Boneau, Joey Parnes, Leonard Soloway, Adrian Bryan-Brown, Heather Hitchens, Frank Wildhorn and Lionel Larner.
The musical selections for the funeral were, yes, show tunes—but unexpected ones that were movingly appropriate. Tommy Tune sang “September Song” (by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, from Knickerbocker Holiday), neatly and creatively meshed with another September song (Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” from American Idiot). And there was a special, discernibly poignant pull to “Tomorrow,” from Annie, sung 39 years later by the star who introduced it, Andrea McArdle.
The 35th Annual Tony Awards (June 7, 1981 on CBS TV from the Mark Hellinger Theater): Elizabeth Taylor was nominated for Best Actress in a Play, The Little Foxes, but lost to Jane Lapotaire for Piaf. Elizabeth received a standing ovation when she walked onstage to award that year’s Best Musical. When reading the list of nominees, Elizabeth managed to screw up the names of their names. She drew the biggest laugh when she accidentally called James M. Nederlander, “James Needleheimer”, followed by “Jimmy, I’m sorry“.
The full list of the actual nominees:
- David Merrick for 42nd Street;
- Burton L. Litwin, Manheim Fox, Sondra Gilman, Roger S. Berlind, Louise Westergaard, Belwin Mills Publishing Corporation and Norzar Production Incorporated for Sophisticated Ladies;
- Ivan Bloch, Richmond Crinkley, Eve Skina, Larry J. Silva, Joan F. Tobin and Royal Pardon Productions for Tintypes;
- David S. Landay, Carole J. Shorenstein, Stewart F. Lane, James M. Nederlander, Warner Theatre Productions, Claire Nichtern and Lawrence Kasha for Woman of the Year.
The award went to producer David Merrick for 42nd Street.