The Orpheum Theaters

13 10 2010

Vaudeville. Theater. Music. Motion Pictures. Does anything excite us more than great entertainment? I can think of few better things than money can buy and time well spent than a couple hours at the theater. Be it film, or a live production, theater is a part of our lives as Americans.

And across our land, one such theater circuit that has influenced is the Orpheum Theaters. Begun by Martin Beck in 1919, just at the start of the golden age of entertainment, the Orpheums spread across the country as 45 theaters sprung up. While only 16 of those are currently still in operation across the states, two of those are in our own backyard. The Orpheum Memphis and the Orpheum New Orleans are integral parts of their respective cities.

The Orpheum Memphis is located right in the center of downtown Memphis, on Main Street. It was built in 1928 and has housed plays, concerts, films, ballet, and opera. I can even remember an early date with Husband, going to see Gone With the Wind as part of a summer film series at the Orpheum Memphis. And it holds annually more Broadway tour shows than any other theater in the country. Renovated in the 1980’s, this scintillating theater reckons you back to the gilded age of show business with plush velvet seats, grand chandeliers, and magnificent staircases. Called, the “South’s Finest Theater”, the Orpheum in Memphis is even claimed to be haunted, as all successful theaters should be, by a little girl named “Mary.”

Orpheum Memphis

The historic Orpheum Theater located in New Orleans is known as the RKO Orpheum, as in the 1920’s the Orpheum Circuit merged with the major motion picture studio, RKO. It was opened in 1921 where it has since been home to vaudeville, films, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. The vertical hall construction lends to its acoustical purity, but has recently been damaged due to flooding. However, good news comes in the form of a Dallas businessman who plans to restore the theater to glory.

RKO Orpheum in New Orleans

Orpheus was the Greek poet-musician who, in mythology, played melodies on his magic lyre that took the gods under his spell. And I can firmly say if you have the privilege of visiting one of these historic theaters sometime in the near, or distant future, you’ll be under magic spell, and won’t be disappointed.

And if you’re looking for a good time to visit, tonight is the opening night of Wicked at the Orpheum Memphis! So this might be your golden green opportunity to see this award-winning Broadway show right here in our own South!

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