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Great Beginnings: First Nighter and “the little theatre off Times Square” March 5, 2007

Posted by William Spear in >> Great Beginnings, >> Radio Drama.

The First Nighter program took listeners to “the little theatre off Times Square” to rub shoulders with celebrities attending each week’s premier on the great White Way.

It was also home to a popular drama anthology which ran for 23 years sponsored by Campana, Miller Beer and, later, sustained.

Hosted by Mr. First Nighter, played by Don Ameche, each show began with the sounds of Broadway and walking into a theatre. The following is the introduction for The Chinese Gong:

. . .

MR. FIRST NIGHTER: (COLD) Theatre time. Broadway’s buzzing with excitement and eagerly awaiting to welcome an opening night performance at the little theatre off Times Square. There’ll be a crowd of onlookers and autograph fans on hand at the entrance to greet the celebrities who always attend the premier on the great White Way. So let’s not miss a minute of the excitement.


MR. FIRST NIGHTER: It’s just a short walk around the corner. Will you join me?


MR. FIRST NIGHTER: There’re lots of uniforms in the crowd tonight at Broadway and 42nd Street. Shall we cross the street here?


MR. FIRST NIGHTER: Well here we are at the little theatre off Times Square.


TICKET TAKER: (OFF MIC) Have your tickets ready, please. Have your tickets ready, please. (LET BED BREATHE: ON MIC) Good evening, Mr. First Nighter. The usher will show you to your box.

MR. FIRST NIGHTER: Thank you. We’ll go right in.


MR. FIRST NIGHTER: We’ll here we are and every seat is taken. Advance theatre notices have heralded tonight’s play as a thriller packing plenty of excitement in every scene with the biggest surprise coming at the very end. Its title is The Chinese Gong and it was written by Arch Oboler. Topping an all star cast is our popular leading lady, Barbara Luddy, and opposite Miss Luddy is her guest leading man, Olan Soule. The play is pure fiction of course and does refer to real people or to actual events. And now, before first curtain, let’s listen to Eric Sagerquist’s First Nighter Orchestra.


. . .

We’ll take two tickets; front row center. Don’t worry about being late; they’ll hold the curtain for friends of the First Nighter.

# 30 #



1. Ed Cook - August 28, 2008

Mr. First NIghter once opened with him saying to cab driver, “Little theater off Times Square.” Later in his box he would announce the night’s program which always starred Barbara Luddy and Les Tramain.

2. William Spear - August 29, 2008


Thanks for stopping by and adding to the post. Mr. First Nighter is one of my favorite openings.

Warm regards,

# 30 #

3. John Herrmann - November 12, 2008

I once heard Barbara Luddy on a call-in late night radio show while I was driving across country. She was tipsy and I forget what she was talking about, but the host of the show and the person with me in the car had never heard of this terrific dramatic radio actress. That must have been in the mid- to late-1960s.

Bob Barbosa - February 9, 2013

I remember through the 40 s & 50s as programs of light comedy and happy edings. I loved the program.

4. Elettra - December 14, 2008

I had a fine letter from J.H. who is researching The Shadow and is too young to remember the 30s- 50s. I had been trying to locate The Singing Lady. We children used to sit on the floor in our library and WATCH the radio as wishfull TV anticipatrons (sic). There was a little go-down (qv) under the back stairs where the sound equipment was stored. It wasn’t pretty enough for visitors to see.
Remember the fine fabric screen over the speaker, with gothic-arch
woodden grid over IT ? My goodness, why the disguise ? The now-owners of that lovely house might still use the closet for card-table storage or some such. (1100 Park Ave. Rochester, NY )

5. Ted shrader - May 25, 2009

Any source known for recordings of these old first nighter shows, especially those featuring Don Ameche ?
A C D is available via Amazon.com of the musical in which he starred, “Goldilocks”.It is great !


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7. Norm Grajek - April 20, 2013

Wonderful show, no shooting and great story telling . Try it today with teenagers

8. Louise - September 7, 2013

memories listening on our small radio that resembled a gothic church window !!!

9. Charles Foley - December 19, 2013

As a kid is listened lots of soaps and Little Theatre off Times Square. It was a real treat for me. Nice to see name of Luddy. Very fond memories so somewhere I remember the name of Bea Benadarret. (sp?)

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