The Westside Theatre, constructed in 1889 as a German Baptist Church, was renovated and opened in 1991 under the management of Reno Productions, Inc. (Peter Askin, Director).
A vast variety of historic, successful productions have been presented on these stages, including CAGNEY; TURN ME LOOSE; THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY; SATCHMO AT THE WALDORF; OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES; MY NAME IS ASHER LEV; LOVE LOSS AND WHAT I WORE; I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE (a record-breaking twelve-year run); TRUMBO; THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES; NIXON’S NIXON; FULL GALLOP; THE FOOD CHAIN; THE CRYPTOGRAM; SPIC-O-RAMA; and the inaugural productions, AND THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND: THE SONGS OF KANDER AND EBB.
The Westside Theatre produced the Off-Broadway production of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, which ran for two and a half years at the Jane Street Theatre (Westside’s downtown sister theatre), garnered the Outer Critics Circle award for Outstanding Off-Broadway musical of 1998, along with two OBIE awards.
The Westside Theatre also produced TRUMBO: RED WHITE AND BLACKLISTED, featuring a rotation of actors in the role of Dalton Trumbo, including Nathan Lane, Ed Harris, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Robbins, Chris Cooper, Alec Baldwin, and Brian Dennehy. Other New York producing credits: Gretchen Law’s TURN ME LOOSE, John Leguizamo’s SPIC-O-RAMA, Doug McGrath’s POLITICAL ANIMAL, and the New York Musical Theatre Festival production of FEELING ELECTRIC, which later evolved into the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical NEXT TO NORMAL.
Our Building, From 1889 to Now
The Westside Theatre was originally designed as the Second German Baptist Church by the architect Henry F. Kilburn. Construction began on September 17, 1889 and was completed on April 29, 1890. At that time the estimated cost of erecting the building was $25,000.
The first secular use of the building occurred in 1968 when it became a discotheque called Club Sanctuary. After four years, the club’s popularity waned and on April 5, 1972 Club Sanctuary closed.
On October 17, 1973, THE CONTRACTOR by David Storey became the first play produced here by the Chelsea Theatre Group. The building was renamed the Chelsea Westside Theatre. VANITIES and STRIDER were among the plays that appeared at the theatre with Robert Kalfin as its Producing Director.
From 1981 until 1990, the theatre was managed by Raymond L. Gaspard under the name, The Westside Arts Theatre. THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST, FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE, SISTER MARY IGNATIUS EXPLAINS IT ALL FOR YOU, and PENN AND TELLER are a few of the many productions hosted by the Westside Arts.
Currently the theatre is under the management of Reno Productions, Inc. After an extensive renovation, Reno Productions opened the theatre in March of 1991 under the name The Westside Theatre. The Kander and Ebb musical AND THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND and Rick Reynolds’ ONLY THE TRUTH IS FUNNY (in the Upstairs and Downstairs Theatres respectively) were the inaugural productions under the new management.