Westbury Music Fair

Westbury, New York

The NYCB Theater at Westbury (originally known as the Westbury Music Fair) is an entertainment venue located in Westbury, New York constructed in theater in the round style with seating for 3,000 that was originally developed as a means to present top performers and productions of popular theatrical musicals at a series of venues located in suburban locations on the East Coast of the United States.

Radio broadcaster Frank Ford and nightclub owner Lee Guber were returning home with their wives after attending a 1954 musical performance presented in a tent. After the two kept commenting on how they could improve on the show they had just seen, Ford's wife told them "Well, why don't you". They went ahead with the idea, leading the creation of Music Fair Enterprises, Inc. Together with Shelly Gross, a television news anchor who had become disenchanted with his profession, the three raised $100,000 to lease the Devon, Pennsylvania site of what they named the Valley Forge Music Fair, which brought in profits exceeding $50,000 in its inaugural season in 1955.

An abandoned lime pit in Westbury, New York, a Long Island suburb of New York City, became the site of their second facility, the Westbury Music Fair. The original facility was an uninsulated blue-and-beige striped tent erected in 1956 that could accommodate 1,850, one of many similar tent-based theaters that existed nationwide in the mid-1950s. The tent was erected for $120,000 at a central Nassau County location conveniently located near the Northern State Parkway and the Wantagh State Parkway, though it was also on an approach path for planes landing at what later became John F. Kennedy International Airport, with noise from jet engines of planes overhead occasionally drowning out performers.

With Ford out of the picture, Gross and Guber constructed a theater on the site in 1966 that could fit 3,000 attendees.The new, permanent facility was a concrete building with carpeted floors and 3,000 fully upholstered seats, climate controlled with heating and air conditioning. The building continued the theatre in the round format used in the original tent, which offered clear and close views from all seats and a more intimate proximity to performers, while keeping down production costs as sets could be minimally designed.

In its first year, which featured such performances as a production of The King and I, the theater grossed $230,000. By 1976, revenue had grown more than 50-fold, to $13 million. Ticket prices that had started at $2.50 to $4.50 when the theater opened, had climbed to an average price of $8.75 by 1976.

SFX Entertainment acquired the facility in 1998, and it is now owned and operated by Live Nation and known as the Capital One Bank Theater at Westbury as of 2009. Among the stars who performed at their suburban theaters were Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, George Carlin, Ray Charles, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sergio Franchi, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Don Rickles, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, The Who, Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Bob Weir, Jordan Sparks, RatDog, Chris Isaak, James Hunter & Weird Al Yankovic, among others.

Programs available from this theatre:

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