Earth: Eugene O’Neill Theater, New York, home of the worst Broadway show ever.

eugene oneill theater

Here’s just a fun, fluffy “Earth” post that’s more about trivia than it is about geography. This is the Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 West 49th Street, Manhattan, which has been the home turf of a number of classic Broadway shows. At this theater were performed classic plays like Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (1947), The Odd Couple (1966), Annie (1982) and the more recent smash hit The Book of Mormon (2011). Actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Walter Matthau, Karl Malden, Rue McClanahan, Jason Robards and Christopher Plummer have appeared on its stage over the decades since its original opening in 1925.

The O’Neill was also the site of perhaps the most notorious disaster in Broadway history. Thirty-three years ago tonight, on February 22, 1983, a “comedy” called Moose Murders had its premiere at this theater. That performance was also its last. The play was written by Arthur Bicknell and starred June Gable (who later played Estelle Leonard on Friends) and Holland Taylor, most famous for The Practice, for which she won an Emmy. Moose Murders is about a group of people trapped in a hotel in the Adirondacks during a storm, during which several comic murders occur. Evidently the play was so bad that even veteran reviewers were astonished. The notices were so savage that playwright Arthur Bicknell recalled getting jeered at by passers-by on the street after the ignominious closing. Moose Murders is generally regarded, whether deserved or not, as the worst play ever produced on Broadway. It’s now the subject of numerous Broadway trivia questions and in-jokes among the New York dramatic set.

Besides Moose Murders, the Eugene O’Neill Theater has an interesting history. It was named the Forrest Theater upon its opening in the 1920s, then in 1945 renamed the Coronet, and named Eugene O’Neill, after America’s preeminent playwright, in 1959. Apparently it was Neil Simon’s favorite venue and he wound up owning the theater for a while. The picture in this article, taken in November 2014, shows a crowd queueing up for The Book of Mormon, a hit which is still playing there today. Undoubtedly it is better than Moose Murders.

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10 Comments

  1. Critics, bah humbug.They say Ishtar was the worst movie, i thought its classic and i watch it often

  2. I have heard about this play, but never what made it so bad. Jokes that fell flat like birds dropping dead from the skies? I doubt if it could have simply been bad acting or poor direction. That can be fixed. But a script that sucks dooms everything.

  3. I believe that Eve Arden was supposed to star in it, but left the show before it stopped rehersals. Wise move if true.

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