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Creating a theatrical oasis in the Civilian Hotel

David Rockwell and Heather Hitchens take Broadway News behind the scenes of the Theatre District hotel and its ties to the American Theatre Wing.

David Rockwell seated in the Rosevale Cocktail Room located on the second floor of the Civilian hotel (Credit: Santiago Felipe)

At the entrance of the Civilian Hotel, just before the check-in desk, there is a bench. Dark wood with an emerald velvet cushion, it’s an inviting seat, which also happens to have been Hugh Jackman’s on the set of the 2022 “Music Man” revival. Indeed, this piece you see upon entering the Theater District hotel is part of designer Santo Loquasto’s original set from that production, on loan from Loquasto himself. The bench’s presence is a statement — albeit a subtle one: You are now entering a theatrical space.

“This place has a point of view, which a good Broadway set does,” said David Rockwell, the Civilian’s architect and designer and a Tony Award-winning scenic designer known for “She Loves Me” and “Hairspray.” “It sets the stage for the telling of the story.”

The story of the Civilian is a tribute to Broadway, its artists and the collaborative art form of theater. 

In 2017, hotelier Jason Pomeranc approached Rockwell about building a hotel where there was a parking lot on 48th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. “I said, I’d be interested in doing it if it’s a hotel about the neighborhood it’s in,” Rockwell recounted, “which has always been a passion of mine — that this neighborhood that has these 41 Broadway theaters doesn’t have a center. And that it would be great to create a place that brings you behind the scenes and celebrates a lot of the artists who make Broadway and becomes kind of a home for them.”

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