Palace Theatre Begins Complete Auditorium Renovation Today
Proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 92-year-old Palace Theatre today begins a full facelift of its 2,837-seat auditorium as part of an ongoing $6.5 million renovation. Adjacent to downtown Columbus' LeVeque Tower, the six-month, main-hall makeover will include the repair of damaged plaster, new paint in a new color scheme, all-new seats on the first floor, and fully refurbished seats in the balcony. As such, the Palace is now closed to the public, and will reopen in November 2018.
Gifted to CAPA in 1989, the Palace has become the "workhorse" of the CAPA stable of theatres, hosting more than 100 diverse performances for more than 150,000 patrons each year. "Most people don't realize the impact the Palace has on what entertainment comes to Columbus," stated CAPA President and CEO Chad Whittington. "While the Ohio Theatre is often booked with multiple performances of one show, the Palace offers a house of similar size to the many in-demand, one-night-only artists and performances touring the country. This flexibility and availability enables a wide variety of artists to play Columbus that otherwise would not."
Last painted and repaired in 1984, the auditorium will receive its first renovation in nearly 35 years. The process will begin with a two-week installation of an intricate scaffolding system that will allow artisans direct access to the Palace's 60-foot-high ceilings to begin the cleaning and repair of damaged plaster.
After the plaster repairs have properly cured, the ceiling and walls will be painted with a new color scheme that blends historical references and fresh, new colors selected for the visual impact they create in highlighting the stunning decorative plaster work. The large arches along the walls of the auditorium will also be inlaid with a complimentary damask-patterned wall covering.
Much of the gold inset in the elaborate relief work of the decorative plaster moldings has worn away, so the gold will be repainted to showcase the detailed artistry of the French monarchy-inspired plaster reliefs defining the ceiling and walls.
The balcony seats will be cleaned, repainted, and refurbished with all-new cushioning and upholstery.
Seating on the main floor will be replaced with all-new, more contemporary-sized seats. This will reduce the capacity from 2,837 to 2,691, but allow for more accessible seating than is currently available and an improved patron experience overall.
CAPA is currently fundraising to secure the remaining capital needed to fund additional renovations to mezzanine-level lobby spaces and replacement of the front entry doors. Now in the public stage of the fundraising effort, members of the Columbus community are invited to donate to the ongoing campaign to complete improvements to the Palace Theatre, and can do so at: www.HelpThePalace.com
Over a seven-month period in 2017, CAPA installed a new, high-efficiency heating system at the Palace Theatre, and also replaced its roof.
Architect Thomas Lamb designed both the Palace Theatre (which opened in 1926) and the Ohio Theatre (which opened in 1928). His design for the Palace Theatre was inspired by France's magnificent Palais de Versailles, the royal manor house of King Louis XIV, and was constructed at a cost of $3 million ($43 million in today's dollars). The "Keith-Albee Palace" was built for vaudeville, a popular "variety show" form of entertainment that offered multiple, unrelated acts grouped together on one bill. A vaudeville show could include musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, animal acts, magicians, strongmen, acrobats, jugglers, and much more. Due to the need for performers to be heard without amplification, exceptional care was paid to acoustics as the Palace was being designed and constructed.
In 1930, the Palace became known as the "RKO Palace" (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), and began showing movies as well as hosting live entertainment. During the '30s, '40s, and '50s, it was Columbus' most active live-show theatre with performances from the biggest names in entertainment including Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Burns and Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Miller, Gypsy Rose Lee, Cab Calloway, and Mae West (who broke box office records with her performance).
In 1973, the Palace was purchased by Frederick W. LeVeque who had plans to incorporate a hotel, but he tragically died in 1975. In 1978, his widow Katherine LeVeque announced she would save and restore the Palace, and invested millions in renovation and improvements. As such, the Palace was closed during much of the '70s.
On February 4, 1980, the Palace Theatre held a grand reopening celebration with a concert by The Osmond Family starring Donny and Marie, and continued to host concerts and Broadway shows throughout the 1980s.
In 1989, Mrs. LeVeque gifted the Palace Theatre to CAPA. Already stewarding downtown's historic Ohio Theatre since 1969, CAPA was honored to add the beloved Palace Theatre to the family, assuming responsibility for its everyday care and creating a strategy for a successful future.
Today, the Palace has become one of Columbus' most active and frequently visited entertainment venues, hosting an average of 100 performances for 150,000 people each year. The Palace has brought some of the biggest names in entertainment to Columbus, including such performers as B.B. King, Jon Stewart, Bonnie Raitt, Jay Leno, Peter, Paul and Mary, Etta James, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah McLachlan, John Mellencamp, Frankie Valli, and many, many more. Many Broadway in Columbus performances are held at the Palace Theatre as well, including engagements of such smash-hit musicals as Dreamgirls, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Green Day's American Idiot, and most recently, the Columbus stage debut of NFL legend, OSU superstar, and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George in CHICAGO.