Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Venue: The Foxwoods Theatre Traps 'Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark'

Above & below: 42nd Street facade.
(all photos except where noted: TheHopefulTraveler)
The Foxwoods Theatre is one of the largest and most beautiful theatres on Broadway. It also has had a rocky existence since the historic venue opened after an extensive construction in 1997.

Many patrons are unaware that the theatre has elements that were part of two vintage Broadway theatres, the Lyric and Apollo, that previously occupied the site. The Lyric opened in 1903 as a playhouse and the Apollo opened next door in 1910 as a venue for movies and vaudeville. They had varied histories with the Lyric becoming one of 42nd Street's notorious movie houses and the Apollo entertaining audiences with burlesque and then concerts before both venues closed in 1992 for good.

(photo: Fischer Dachs Associates)
Livent, a Toronto-based theatrical production company, acquired both theatres in 1995 and with financial support of Ford Motor Company razed and transformed the two into a state-of-the art theatre. When construction was complete, the venue was named the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and the musical 'Ragtime' the first production to take its stage 1997.

Fortunes rise and fall on Broadway but none as much as Livent which declared bankruptcy in 1998 after a scandalous revelation of accounting inconsistencies by its top executives. The top two executives are still facing convictions in their native Canada and are still wanted in the U.S.  In 1999 Livent's properties including the Ford Center were bought by SFX Entertainment which was absorbed into Clear Channel Entertainment which is called Live Nation today.

In 2004, the new owners partnered with Hilton Hotels Corporation and the venue simply renamed the Hilton Theatre. That name stuck until 2010 when naming rights were granted to Foxwoods Resort Casino. The value of the various partnerships with Ford, Hilton and now Foxwoods have never been disclosed.

Interior and exterior features of the both the former Lyric and Apollo were retained in the theatre that audiences view today. From Playbill's "At This Theatre" by Louis Botto: This included the ceiling domes, the proscenium arch and side boxes. An elliptical dome from the Lyric was reproduced and now forms the centerpiece of a magnificent two-story atrium design with a majestic limestone staircase. In the atrium's floor there is a spectacular mosaic design featuring the masks of comedy and tragedy. At the top of the stair is a medallion with the head of Zeus taken from the Lyric theatre.

Unusual aspects of the theatre is a side room in the atrium that is the only permanent merchandise shop on Broadway. Although the main entrance is on 42nd Street, audiences are funneled through a long hallway until reaching the atrium and auditorium which are actually on 43rd Street where another entrance is located. But regardless of the entrance, the grand visual treats are the gleaming two-level rotunda with twin curving staircases and the impressive auditorium.

The show merchandise shop.
Tenants of the past ten years include: a revival of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (2000), a revival of '42nd Street' (2001), a stage adaptation of 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' (2005) and a musical adaptation of 'Young Frankenstein' (2007). The current resident is the much publicized musical 'Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark'.

The theatre seats 1,932 persons on three levels. The feel of the theatre is truly huge by Broadway standards. Just walking to a front orchestra seat seems like a trek from the entrance at the rear of the auditorium. Intimacy was not the order of the day when plans were drawn up for the venue. The series of the musical spectacles that have played the theatre would not have it any other way.

The 43rd Street facade. (photo: Live Nation)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...