What better time than the holiday season to re-don my Scrooge costume and rail against old theatres undergoing ahistorical facelifts…
First it was what New York City’s Second Stage Theatre plans to do to the Helen Hayes on the Great White Way. Now, my Broadway Christmas Carol of scorn moves north to Boston, where it was just announced that the Huntington Theatre Company has ensured it can remain in its historic and historical theatre for many years to come. Since it’s an acclaimed regional company led by artistic director Peter DuBois— an equally acclaimed director in his own right — everyone seemed to respond to this news with delight…except ol’ Scrooge over here.
Don’t get me wrong; the continued existence of the theatre is objectively worth celebrating. I first visited its hallowed grounds earlier this year for a wonderful revival of Merrily We Roll Along. Given how beloved the production was when it premiered in London, any regional theatre managing to attract it over a New York counterpart is a testament to the Huntington’s impressive transatlantic reputation (with that being said, I’d imagine making the money work for a relatively large musical with limited commercial assets would’ve been difficult in the Big Apple; the off-Broadway houses with necessary subscriber bases simply aren’t big enough).
An essential component of my transcendent experience was checking out the classic venue that dates back to 1925; walking through its doors and into the gorgeously-ornate original lobby immediately transported me to a different era before a single note of Sondheim’s sweepingly luscious score was played. The theatre served the all-important purpose of physically, visually, and aesthetically reminding audiences that they’re participating in an oratory tradition that dates back to the dawn of humanity.
Now tell me how this new facade communicates that in any way:
I wasn’t privy to the negotiations between the new proprietors and the Huntington, so I can’t say if the painfully 21st century design was unavoidable. If the powers-that-be at the Huntington were faced with the binary choice of adding glass or moving locations, then they unequivocally made the right decision. Preserving theaters should always be the goal, no matter the concessions, because building a new one is as rare as an endangered species these days.
I just hope that the Huntington fought to retain the original look. If they didn’t, and if they actually wanted some surface innovation — they definitely seem to be celebrating it — then they deserve to be derided for such shortsightedness.
They’re also remaining suspiciously mute on whether the actual interior of the theatre will be changed. If it is, I’ll have a fucking conniption.
So, you know, stay tuned to this website if you’re interested in reading a grown man losing his mind. Let’s hope that day never comes…