New York City is probably the most skilful purveyor of ready-made amusement in the world. The Great White Way, a symbol for the whole glittering business of entertainment, provides fare for everyone, from the serious student of the drama to the legendary business man who frankly likes to look at a pretty chorus, and who gets just what he wants, and as frankly. To count the legitimate theatres in New York would be a useless task, since the number seems steadily to increase overnight. The theatres vary in character, from the intimate Little Theatre to huge temples of the drama like Al Jolson’s or the John Golden Theater…Some theatres, like the Empire, where Maude Adams spoke in the clear, sweet, boyish voice of Peter Pan, night after enchanted night, have a glamour of the old days about them still. The Guild Theatre, with its Florentine air; the Ziegfeld, with its eggshaped interior and its interesting murals; the Booth and Plymouth, with their feeling of intimacy with the stage, all provide good backgrounds for their wares of make-believe. Connected with the rather complicated business of getting theatre tickets in New York, one very spectacular institution must be mentioned. There are numerous good legitimate ticket agents, of course, but the Public Service Ticket Office, referred to carelessly by an ever-hurried citizenry as “Gray’s Drug Store,” because it is located in the same building, is unique and highly interesting. It is a place where New York may buy its theatre tickets at half-price, and if you go there just before the matinée hour, or directly after dinner on a Saturday night, you will think all of New York is on a bargain hunt.…
With half a hundred playhouses setting up each a different play —musical, farcical, sentimental, morbid, impudent, classical, comical, clinical, two-deckers by Eugene O’Neill, all-hellin-the-machine by David Belasco, or just Shubert shows —New Yorkers notoriously do not spend their evenings at the theater unless they have out-of-town guests who must be taken to a show.
The humor magazine Judge was still doing well enough in the 1920s to employ George Jean Nathan as its theater critic. Here is his rundown of the shows for the 1925 fall season:
The Buccaneer (Plymouth) — Piracy, bloodshed, profanity and adultery, worth the admission fee.
A Holy Terror (Cohan) — Boobismus.
The Vortex (Henry Miller) — A hophead, a gigolo and a lecherous mother.
The Jazz Singer (Fulton) — Hebrew bait.
Cradle Snatchers (Music Box) —Funny stuff; you’ll chuckle.
Accused (Belasco) —One of Brieux’s wind-machines.
Big Boy (44th Street) —The incomparable Algernon Jolson.
Oh, Mama! (Playhouse) — French farce played à la Bronx.
The Family Upstairs (Little) —A fairly good comedy.
Outside Looking In (Greenwich Village) —A study of Hobo sapiens .
The Pelican (Times Square) — Mush, 1890 model.
Sunny (New Amsterdam) —A very good song and dance show.
Applesauce (Ambassador) —
Applesauce . The Vagabond King (Casino) — Eminently worth your evening.
The Kiss in a Taxi (Ritz) — French farce played à la Coney.
The Green Hat (Broadhurst) — Sex piffle.
The Gorilla (Selwyn) —Amusing crook play burlesque.
Artists and Models (Winter Garden) —Lively girls and tunes.
The Student Prince (JoIson’s) —Excellent musical comedy.
Dearest Enemy (Knickerbocker) — Two good melodies and a weak libretto.
White Collars (Harris) —A boob-bumper.
Captain Jinks (Beck) —Fair music show; some catchy tunes.
The Butter and Egg Man (Longacre)— Amusing compendium of Broadway wise-cracks.
Arms and the Man (Guild) — G.B.S., but this time not S.R.O.