Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Golden Age - Private Tour of The Orpheum

The crown jewel of the Golden Age of theatre is not just Broadway, but also it's distant relative located in Memphis, Tennessee. With as much history and as many famous performances, this theater's walls have seen it all. For their 86th anniversary, I was recently lucky enough to be given the opportunity to receive a private tour of the Orpheum, thanks to the lovely Christina Torres. If you are ever in the Memphis area and want to see a great show, this is a must see attraction by far.

Starting out as the Grand Opera House in 1890, it was known as the finest theater outside of New York City. Back in the day, Vaudeville was the biggest source of entertainment, which soon led to The Grand Opera house being renamed as the "Orpheum Theatre" in 1907, due to it's contribution to the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit.

The Vaudeville circuit continued for almost two decades at the Orpheum, but in 1923, after a performance of singer Blossom Seeley, a fire erupted that was said to have started from the top floor. 

(Above is a photograph from the performance of Blossom Seeley, the night the building burnt to the ground.) 

(Photographs of the fire)

A New Begining

The new, and twice as large Orpheum was built on the same site as The Grand Opera House in 1928. At a cost of about $1.5 million, the theater was also made twice as beautiful. Featuring ornate molding, and crystal chandeliers weighing up to one ton each, the theater boasts extravagant, royal-like details, and seems to be reminiscent of something out of Europe. In addition to the jaw dropping decor, a Wurlitzer pipe organ was placed inside, which still stands today.

(Street view of the Orpheum in 1930)

Of the endless list of famous stars to have performed here, Mae West is photographed above from her performance at the Oprheum in 1938. As a huge fan of her, it was such an honor to be in the same room so many people like her have once performed in.

In 1940, the Orpheum was purchased by Malco to begin showing films, which lasted until 1976 when they decided to sell the building. During this time, discussions arose as to whether they should demolish the theater to build office space. Thankfully, the Memphis Development Foundation purchased it to begin bringing back Broadway productions and other shows.

Photographed above is the king of rock and roll himself, Elvis, in front of the once Malco theatre. Since the Oprheum has been brought back, there has been a major renovation that turned the Orpheum to it's original 1928 self. It has never looked better and is kept in pristine condition thanks to all that work to take care of it.

Today the Orpheum is home to Ballet Memphis, Opera Memphis, and so many shows that tour throughout the country. Here are some photographs I took of the interior of the Orpheum. No picture can do the beauty of this theater any justice. Everywhere you look there are ornate details. It's a fantastic, overwhelming feeling just being inside this place.

The main lobby of the theater is beyond any lobby I have ever seen. The details are never ending and the molding stretches from the walls to the ceiling. I couldn't resist having the chance to be photographed in there. Here are the couple I was able to get.

With being in the Orpheum, I wanted to bring out the Old Hollywood feel to the building with my authentic 50's black lace dress from Neiman Marcus. I felt as if I were transferred back in time, on my way to see an opera.

I want to give Christina Torres a huge thank you for taking the time to show me this wonderful piece of history. She really knows her stuff and was such a joy to talk to. It's always nice being able to relate to someone on their love for the classics, too. The Orpheum is truly like no other, and I can't wait to attend a show here, (hopefully The Nutcracker, which will be showing soon.) For info on upcoming events, check out the Orpheum's website: