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Tour inside a Broadway theater just the ticket

NEW YORK — Walking into a Broadway theater at show time is something special — the electricity, the excited murmurs, the shared anticipation. But, it turns out, walking into an empty Broadway theater can be just as fun.

A newly launched tour of the Hudson Theatre offers a rare chance to wander around the interior of Broadway’s oldest theater and hear some of the fascinating stories that have happened over its 116 years.

“I would encourage you to bask in the rare moment of being in a Broadway theater by yourself with no other audience members,” says tour leader Tim Dolan, moments before opening the Hudson’s inner doors.

Over the next 90 minutes, Dolan weaves real stories about Hudson Theatre veterans like Barbra Streisand, Douglas Fairbanks and Elvis with historical events like the sinking of the Titanic and the Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903 in Chicago.

Dolan has partnered with the Hudson’s owner, the Ambassador Theatre Group, to let him bring tours into the theater during lulls between shows.

The 977-seat Hudson was built by theater producer Henry Harris, who perished aboard the Titanic.

The Hudson operated as a theater on and off until 1960, with shows starring some of the biggest names in show business, including Ethel Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks, Sidney Lumet, Mae West, Lena Horne and Maureen Stapleton. “The Price Is Right” with Bob Barker once originated from the Hudson, and “American Idol” auditions have been held on its stage.

After 1960, it narrowly escaped a wrecking ball four times — the existence of a family in the top floors probably helped — and went through many hands and incarnations, including stints as a radio and TV studio, burlesque theater and porn movie house.

Jack Paar’s variety show was broadcast from the Hudson and it was where Streisand made her first TV appearance. Steve Allen’s show was housed at the Hudson for a time, and he was responsible for an infamous episode in which Elvis sang “Hound Dog” to a real hound dog.