Designed by architect Henry B. Herts, it was named for Longacre Square, the original name for Times Square. The French neo-classical building was constructed by impresario Harry Frazee, better remembered as the owner of the Boston Red Sox who, needing money for his theatrical ventures, sold Babe Ruth's contract to the New York Yankees. A curse allegedly lingers on the theater as a result, and superstitious producers avoid it for fear they'll be backing a flop, as noted by William Golden in his seminal book The Season. Despite the rumor, a large number of performers who have appeared on stage here have taken home a Tony Award for their efforts.
The Longacre's first show was a production of the William Hurlbut-Frances Whitehouse comedy Are You a Crook?, which opened on May 1, 1913. With the exception of its use as a television studio in the mid-1940s to early 1950s, the theatre has operated as a legitimate Broadway venue.
- 1917: The P.G. Wodehouse-Jerome Kern-Guy Bolton musical Leave It to Jane stars Edith Hallor, Robert Pitkin and Oscar Shaw
- 1935: Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty stars the playwright, Lee J. Cobb, and Elia Kazan
- 1955: Julie Harris plays Joan of Arc in Jean Anouilh's The Lark, for which she wins her second Best Actress Tony Award. Also in the cast are Christopher Plummer, Boris Karlof, and Theodore Bikel.
- 1961: Zero Mostel wins a Tony for changing into a beast before the audience's eyes in Ionesco's The Rhinoceros. Supporting him are Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Morris Carnovsky, and Jean Stapleton.
- 1966: Hal Holbrook's performance in his landmark one-man show, Mark Twain Tonight, earns him a Tony.
- 1975: The cast of Terrence McNally's riotous The Ritz includes Jack Weston, Jerry Stiller, F. Murray Abraham, George Dzundza, and Rita Moreno, who wins a Tony. The comedy runs for 398 performances.
- 1976: David Rabe's The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel wins Al Pacino a Tony.
- 1976: Julie Harris earns her fifth Tony for her portrayal of Emily Dickinson in William Luce's The Belle of Amherst.
- 1978: Ain't Misbehavin' runs for 1604 performances and wins Tony Awards for Best Musical, Richard Maltby, Jr.'s direction, and Nell Carter as featured musical actress.
- 1980: John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich score Best Actor and Actress Tonys for their performances in Mark Medoff's Children of a Lesser God.
- 1985: A revival of Peter Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, with Jim Dale and Stockard Channing, earns her a Best Actress Tony.
- 1993: Singer Tony Bennett takes to the stage for a series of concerts.
- 1994: A revival of Medea wins Diana Rigg a Tony.
- 1997: Horton Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- 2001: Two revivals at opposite ends of the theatrical spectrum - the highly dramatic Judgment at Nuremberg and Herb Gardner's comedy A Thousand Clowns - each enjoy a limited run.
- 2002: Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam features works by African-American writers.
- 2005: Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner tackle the roles of George and Martha in a revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Irwin takes home a Tony.
- 2007: A revival of Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio, starring Liev Schreiber, is scheduled to open in February.