Performing Arts: Theater
October 21, 2011
City Center is all dressed up for her inaugural ball, and it only took two years of diligent restoration and renovation to put her back together again.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, City Center will throw open the doors to the opening show of the Fall For Dance Series, flaunting a newly refurbished façade, marquee, lobby, auditorium, promenade, patrons room, and – yes, more bathrooms! A couple of days before the Fall For Dance Season (Oct. 27 – Nov. 6), City Center will celebrate with a spectacular Opening Gala Event on October 25.

Arlene Shuler who started her professional career on the City Center stage as a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, now runs that same theater. Giddy with excitement, Shuler joined with Duncan Hazard, Partner in Charge of Ennead Architects, LLP, to highlight just a few of the numerous visual and physical adjustments.

To start, the City Center marquee is visible from both (6th and 7th) avenues. For those who stand in front of the theater waiting for guests or star-gazing, overhead heaters minimize winter’s chill. Inside, the box office area sports a new bar “Joe’s Bar” (a gift of Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust) that will operate at intermission, creating additional lobby space. Just beyond the ticket-takers, the lobby wall is dotted with six high-definition plasma monitors projecting artists’ videos (currently showcasing work by Rashaad Newsome) curated by the New Museum. Gone is the little balcony that jutted out, and instead, the stairways on either side are gracefully enlarged, adding a touch of grandeur that welcome the theater going throngs.

Audiences will be pleased to hear that there are 500 fewer seats, staggered and re-upholstered for optimum viewing and comfort not to mention an extra, really speedy elevator. Windows on the promenade level are now clear glass replacing the plastic faux stained glass versions allowing people to see the glorious ceiling from outside the building. A photographic display on the Promenade curated by Lynn Garafola for the Jerome Robbins Foundations focuses on choreographer Jerome Robbins in class and rehearsal.

But the most thrilling part of the $56 .6 million renovation is the painstaking refurbishment of the ceilings, glorious metal filigree and walls detailed in exotic Moorish colors (painting restoration by Creative Finishes) resembling precious stones of gold, blue and turquoise, clay, cream, emerald and more. It was noted as well that the terra cotta tiles were manufactured by Boston Valley, one of only two exiting companies in that “old crafts” line of work.

From the outdoor lobby to the sweep of the promenade ceiling, heads will be crooked up, staring and admiring the glory of what once decorated the hall when it was built in 1923 as a meeting hall for the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine and transformed 1943 into the city’s first major performing arts center.

There’s much to applaud and much to see at City Center.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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