The Shubert Organization's fiftieth venue in New York City, it was constructed to replace their outdated Lyric Theatre. Designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp specifically to accommodate musical theatre productions, it opened on December 25, 1923 with the Oscar Hammerstein II-Vincent Youmans production Mary Jane McKane. Since then, it has hosted numerous important musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun (1946), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Dreamgirls (1981), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985) and Les Miserables (1990), which played at the theatre until 2003.
Among the famed 20th century composers and lyricists whose works were housed here are Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, Harold Rome, Frank Loesser, Lionel Bart, Bob Merrill, Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne, E.Y. Harburg, Harold Arlen, and George and Ira Gershwin. Performers who have graced the stage include Gertrude Lawrence, John Gielgud, Clifton Webb, Montgomery Clift, Mary Boland, Ray Bolger, Desi Arnaz, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Zero Mostel, Danny Kaye, Jerry Orbach, Shelley Winters, Bernadette Peters, Ben Vereen, George Rose, Hugh Jackman, and John Lithgow.