The Charles Playhouse is the current home of Boston’s long-running hits, the critically acclaimed Blue Man Group and the longest running play in American History, the hilarious whodunnit, Shear Madness. The venue is owned and operated by Broadway In Boston.
The Charles Playhouse has had a long and varied history in Boston’s Theatre District since its beginnings. The venue was originally designed and built in 1839 as the Fifth Universalist Church, by renowned architect Asher Benjamin. In 1864, it became the first synagogue in Boston, home of congregation Ohabei Shalom, before its transformation during Prohibition into a speakeasy called The Lido Venice. In the 1940s, during the heyday of Boston’s Post-World War II nightclub scene, the upstairs (mainstage) was converted into a fashionable nightclub, Storyland, while downstairs was transformed with hot jazz by artists such as Fats Waller and Earl Fatha Hines.
The venue became the Charles Playhouse in 1958, when the building was named home to The Actors Company, a group of Boston University graduates who included, among their performers, Olympia Dukakis. The Charles Playhouse name originated from The Actors Company’s first home, located at the Charles Street Playhouse at 54 Charles Street, at the base of Beacon Hill. Boston drama critic Elliot Norton wrote that the venue’s rich history gave it “the proper sinned-in atmosphere to become a great theater.” The Charles Playhouse quickly moved to the forefront of America’s regional theater movement, premiering works by Brecht, O’Neill, Pirandello, and Tennessee Williams, and featured performances by many stars-to-be including Al Pacino, Jill Clayburgh, and Jane Alexander.