Palace Theatre To Reopen November 2 After Complete Auditorium Renovation
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 92-year-old Palace Theatre has received a full facelift of its 2,691-seat auditorium. The first major renovation for the Palace since 1984, the six-month, main-hall makeover included the repair of damaged plaster, new paint in a new color scheme, all-new seats on the main floor, full refurbishment of balcony seats, and installation of a new LED house lighting system in the dome and main chandelier. The first public performance in the fully renovated auditorium will be Grammy-nominated comedian Jim Gaffigan on Friday, November 2.
The auditorium rehab is part of an ongoing $6.5 million capital campaign to fund a full renovation of the Palace Theatre. In addition to the recently completed auditorium work, the campaign has also funded installation of a high-efficiency heating system and new roof. CAPA will continue its fundraising efforts to finance the remaining renovations needed in the lobby spaces, including replacement of the front entry doors, enhanced security, and repair and remodeling of the mezzanine-level men's restrooms and concessions area.
"We are thrilled to reveal the stunning transformation of the Palace Theatre's magnificent auditorium and know that Columbus audiences will agree she once again portrays the royal splendor after which she was designed and named," stated CAPA President and CEO Chad Whittington. "It's important to realize that the work is not yet done at the Palace, and CAPA is working diligently to complete the capital campaign to fund the remaining repairs and renovations needed in the lobby. We invite the Columbus community to rally with us and donate to the campaign at www.HelpThePalace.com."
After a two-week installation of an elaborate scaffolding system that allowed artisans direct access to the Palace's 60-foot-high ceilings, the intricate plaster work was cleaned and repaired. After the plaster was properly cured, the ceiling and walls were painted with a new color scheme that blends historical references and fresh, new colors in a striking combination that maximizes its visual impact and highlights the stunning, decorative plaster work. The large arches lining the walls of the auditorium were inlaid with a complimentary damask-patterned wall covering, restoring the pattern and color from its original design.
In the largest arches above the upper boxes, luxurious, red drapes were installed that closely resemble the drapes that once hung in that space. All other existing drapery was cleaned and rehung, including the stage curtain.
All-new seats were installed on the main floor, and balcony seats were cleaned and refurbished with all-new cushioning, springs, and upholstery that matches the main-floor seats.
All 70 light fixtures were taken down and disassembled for cleaning and refurbishment, including the grand chandelier. During the meticulous reassembly process, more than 1,200 light bulbs were replaced, and 100,000 crystals were polished.
Further, a new LED house lighting system was installed in the dome and main chandelier that offers increased control over color temperature and dimming functions while creating a 90% reduction in power consumption. Over time, the new lighting technology will be phased into the remaining lighting fixtures in the auditorium.
In addition, 14 sets of emergency exit doors were restored.
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.