November 01, 2008

Revitalized Midland Theatre Set to "Wow"

Many Kansas Citians remember downtown’s Midland Theatre from the 1960s and 70s-it’s where they saw “The Sound of Music” or “Star Wars” for the first time, well after the grand building was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Others rocked to concerts from the likes of Bob Dylan or James Taylor.  And for a generation of musical lovers, it’s where they first saw “Les Miserables” or “Dream girls.” Regardless the event, it was a place where folks usually said, “Wow, this place was something.”

Despite several dormant years, it still is “something,” and you need to return as soon as possible.

With its grand reopening Sept. 9, featuring concert headliner Melissa Etheridge, not only is the Midland back, it’s back big-time and gorgeous. The past is intact and the future prepared for. The marble floors and ornate ceilings, the sparkling Czechoslovakian hand-cut crystal chandeliers, the gold leaf, the rich pilasters and figures remain, having been repaired, replenished and rehabilitated.

Mixing seamlessly with the historic are state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, and a backstage area worthy of announced acts like Jerry Seinfeld, Anita Baker, Al Green, Wynonna, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Journey and George Lopez.  It all adds up to a multi-faceted forum that will allow more Kansas Citians to use or enjoy the grandeur and grace of the old building.

The versatile new venue has been planned not only with concerts and nightclubbing in mind, but with galas, weddings, and corporate meetings as well. No effort has been spared to make customers of all kinds happy.  For instance, a street level bar, called “Indie on Main,” will be open for theatre-goers early with a full bar and appetizers from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays for downtown reveries and revelers.

Inside the theatre, on the ground level, the seven tiers of carpeted flooring were wide enough for tables and chairs [seating 500], or sturdy, snap together seats for concerts [seating 1,300]. The orchestra pit has been covered and dancing up in the front row is now a possibility.  The loge and balcony seats have not just been “refurbished,” they’ve been taken apart, plushed both back and seat, and widened from 19 to 21 inches-no additional comments necessary.

There’s also a new “Chandelier Bar” added to the top floor, which has the ultimate view of the stage and the Midland’s ornate, beautiful ceiling.

This is a separate ticket opportunity and could be available to the meeting room space, “Windows on Main,” directly across from it. This new space with its chocolate truffle walls has a full catering kitchen and will be ideal for corporate functions.

The Midland and the renovation of the old Empire Theatre a block south are technically part of the Power & Light District, all part of downtowns $4 billion transformation. More then $60 million will have been spent on saving, rehabbing and updating the two old movie palaces.  The old Empire, now dubbed Mainstreet Theater, is scheduled to open in early 2009. It will also be operated by Kansas City-based theater giant AMC, which says it will function as its flagship theatre, hosting documentaries, independent and for¬≠eign films in six state-of-the-art auditoriums, complete with bars and food service.

The Midland was built in 1927 for the then staggering sum of $4 million, then the third largest such theatre in the <st1:country-region>United States</st1:country-region>. Built to features silent movies and live stage entertainment, it was the first theatre in the country to incorporate air conditioning. After one of its remodelings in 1961 it served as a bowling alley, the home of the Kansas City Stars, a National Bowling League team. It was later restored to a movie theatre then, more recently, home to touring Broadway productions.

At the beginning of its unusual history stands the fact it was origi¬≠nally completed in one year, according to Larry Hovek, project manager for SEG Live, one of the three corporate partners-AMC and Baltimore’s Cordish Co. are the other two.  Looking at all the work accomplished since he’s been on the job, he shakes his head and murmurs, “Wow.”  That will be Kansas Citians’ response, too, when they see the partners have kept their promises and “maintained the grandeur but updated with modern amenities.”

Wow, indeed.

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