Built by Chanin Brothers, the Brooks Atkinson originally opened in 1926 as the Mansfield Theatre, named after the great classical American actor Richard Mansfield.
Designed by Herbert J. Krapp, the theatre, decorated in old rose, gold, and tan, followed the latest trends of the era, featuring only one balcony and an auditorium that was wide rather than deep.
The theatre’s opening bill was a melodrama called The Night Duel, which only ran 17 performances. The theatre faced a series of unsuccessful productions for the beginning of its first year until it opened William Anthony McGuire’s If I Was Rich on September 2, 1926, starring vaudeville/musical comedy favorite Joe Laurie Jr.
During the Great Depression, the Chanin Brothers lost all six of the theatres they had built, including the Mansfield. From early March of 1932 until December of that year, the house was dark. Then, on December 26, it reopened with Shuffle Along of 1933.
In 1950, the theatre began operation as a television theatre until it returned to legitimacy with producer Michael Myerberg as it’s owner and manager in 1960. Under his leadership, the theatre was renovated and renamed the Brooks Atkinson in honor of the drama critic.
Throughout its history, the stage saw performances from theatre legends including James Earl Jones, Glenn Close, and even Antoinette Perry, after whom the Tony Awards are named.
In addition, the theatre has ushered in new works from many iconic theatre luminaries including Neil Simon and Tennessee Williams.