Since last spring, Tacoma’s 100-year-old Pantages Theater has been closed for renovation meant to restore the sumptuous interior to its original glory. The crown jewel of Tacoma’s public venues is now all gussied up and is ready to once again receive audiences into its marvelous new space to resume service. Early this week, members of the press were invited to take a tour.
The interior is now a place of gray-green, ivory and rose with accents of gold and natural wood. Tacoma Arts Live (formerly Broadway Center for the Performing Arts) Executive Director David Fischer explained that the restorers – Jeffery Greene of EverGreene Architectural – stripped away 22 layers of paint that had accumulated over the last century. The glass canopy in the ceiling of the great hall was the only clue as to what the original colors might have been. The result of all the hard work created a baroque interior of lush colors, rich textures and subtle tinting to the classical ornamentation and high relief designs that deck out the fixtures and doorways. The “bathtub” balcony boxes have been decorated with plasterwork that goes with the rest of the interior.
A major feature of the renovation is new seating. The brand-new seats are upholstered in velvety gray-green brocade and edged in natural wood. Best of all, they come equipped with cup holders. A central isle with ornate, scarlet carpeting has been opened in the main space to enhance safety and convenience. Despite the addition of the center aisle, seating capacity was increased from 1169 to 1273. Community members interested in helping with the costs of the renovation can still purchase a seat sponsorship. You may name a seat for $1,000 (or $850 for two). Nameplates with an inscription of the donor’s choice will be engraved on a plaque fixed to the seat.
In addition to the paint and plaster work and the new seats, seismic and safety improvements were made to the theater. Reinforcements in the plaster and the stained-glass canopy will help preserve these against seismic activity.
Updated flooring, doors and seats within the main hall were placed with a mind to create increased resonance and a livelier sound. This acoustic enhancement should be noticeable especially during classical music performances. Symphony Tacoma will give it a go on Nov. 17 with its first performance in the new space: “Symphonie Fantastique” by Hector Berlioz. A parade of holiday musical performances will fill the hall with music through to the new year. An interesting feature of the space, part of the original design, is the “sound accelerator,” a curved space above the seats that are set beneath the balcony. The original designers added this feature to ensure a good quality of sound in a space that would otherwise be acoustically impoverished.
All told, the renovations, funded by a combination of city, state, private sector funds and private donations, cost $8.5 million. The Pantages Theater is on the National Register of Historic Places, having one of the highest levels of importance among historic buildings in the Pacific Northwest. It was last renovated in 1983. The current restoration brings the hall back to what it was in 1918, when the building was new.
For more on the Pantages Theater and Tacoma Arts Live, visit BroadwayCenter.org.