ECCLES THEATER IS ON ITS WAY UP

3 01 2015
View from Main St - 2016 & today

View from Main St – 2016 & today

Construction is moving quickly upward on the performing arts center on Main Street and the adjacent office tower.

Main Street Demolition

Main Street Demolition

After five months of demolition work, the site was cleared and ready for foundation work. Pilings for the office were pounded in to the ground in August and concrete pours for the theater began in September. The first steel beams were erected in mid-November. The building has started to take a recognizable shape and one can even see where the stage, seating and lobby will be.

Lower lobby, Main Street on the left

Lower lobby, Main Street on the left

Last week I was able to walk through the construction with members of the development team and Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker.

Mayor Beck and Steve Swisher

Mayor Becker and Steve Swisher

Steve Swisher, from developer Garfield Traub Swisher led the tour and pointed out some of the critical places in the plan.

One spot was the barely foot-wide space between the two buildings, which gives them room to sway in an earthquake without colliding.

After our site visit, we tested examples of the theater seats, from three different possible manufacturers. All were of a similar salmon-colored fabric with wood backs. Each brand of seat looked good to me, but I wasn’t on the committee that would vote and decide the winner.

Prototype seats for the Eccles

Prototype seats for the Eccles

Building an office tower at the same time as the theater is a complicated project, but the fact that the office will be cantilevered over the top of the theater means that the construction timetable is even more difficult. All steel work for the theater must be finished by February 1 if the tower’s development/fabrication schedule is to be met. With the tower and theater being built by two different construction companies, coordination of schedules is critical.  So far, everything is on time and the Eccles Theater should be ready to open by summer 2016.

from backstage, looking toward Main Street

from backstage, looking toward Main Street





UPAC HAS ITS OFFICIAL NAME – AND QUITE A BIG HOLE IN THE GROUND

4 08 2014

Since the beginning of the year, quite a lot of progress has been made on Salt Lake City’s newest Main Street project.

Main Street March 11

Main Street, March 11

Almost half a block of concrete, brick and steel has been turned into rubble and trucked away, but not without some unforeseen problems. The tallest of the three buildings had undiscovered asbestos that had to be removed carefully, and had an unusual support beam configuration that required extra time and three very big cranes to dismantle.

The last beam, June 9

The last beam, June 9

Construction has started on the 24-story office at the corner of Main and 100 South, with a tower crane installed last week.

In June, the new theater had its formal groundbreaking along with the announcement of a generous $15 million gift by the Eccles Foundation. In recognition of the gift, the performing arts center will be named the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Theater. Other donors to the project include the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation and Delta Air Lines.

Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking

The Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune both carried stories about the naming announcement.

If you look over the top of the construction gates of peer down from the Regent Street parking lot, you see a very large hole with dump trucks, earthmovers, excavators and rock crushers diligently making it even deeper. In less than two years, this crater will be filled with a state-of-the-art performing arts center equal to any other in North America.

Main Street, July 31

Main Street, July 31





LEARNING ABOUT THE UPAC CREATIVE TEAMS IN NEW HAVEN AND DURHAM

26 05 2014

Earlier this spring I travelled to New Haven CT and Durham NC to learn more about the design process for UPAC, SLC’s new Main Street theater.

Pelli Office

Pelli Office


First stop was New Haven, where I visited Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the architect for the Utah Performing Arts Center. Cesar Pelli leads the world-renowned firm, which has designed many famous buildings around the world, including the World Financial Center in New York and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. Their experience in the performing arts is extensive, having designed the Overture Center in Madison, the Aranoff Center in Cincinnati, the Schuster PAC in Dayton and many others.
Design models for UPAC in the Pelli office

Design models for UPAC in the Pelli office


Also on the design team for UPAC also includes Fischer Dachs Associates (theater, technical and operations design) and Jaffe Holden (acoustic, audio/video and IT infrastructure).
l to r, Matt Brogan (Fischer Dachs), Mark Holden (Jaffe Holden), Phillip Peglow (Jaffe Holden), Bob Campbell (Fischer Dachs ), Mitch Hirsch (Pelli) and Katy Harp (Pelli).

l to r, Matt Brogan (Fischer Dachs), Mark Holden (Jaffe Holden), Phillip Peglow (Jaffe Holden), Bob Campbell (Fischer Dachs ), Mitch Hirsch (Pelli) and Katy Harp (Pelli).


The six members of the design team were friendly and helpful. The talked frankly about some problems they have had and some of the challenges they are facing in the next two years during construction. After this visit, I am more certain that UPAC will be a stunning building, a great addition to downtown and Utah, and a smashing success.

My next stop was Durham, where I got a tour of the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), which was developed by Swisher Garfield Traub Development, the company also developing UPAC. DPAC opened in 2008 at a cost of $48 million, compared to UPAC’s $120 million. It is larger than UPAC, with 2712 seats and two balconies.

Durham Performing Arts Center

Durham Performing Arts Center

UPAC has three balconies and 2500 seats. DPAC is located on the edge of downtown Durham, next to a new baseball stadium, and has been very successful. In 2011 it was ranked as the #1 US theater under 4000 seats in Pollstar magazine’s listings. DPAC has been helpful in drawing more people to Durham, whose central business district is much smaller than SLC’s.
DPAC Interior

DPAC Interior


DPAC is a spartan facility, with little sparkle or beauty in its design, and few patron comfort components. For example, most audience members must walk up a flight or two flights of stairs to get to their seats and there are few elevators for those who cannot walk. The DPAC lobby is small and not very inviting. UPAC will have a gorgeous lobby, with views of downtown and bars and a restaurant to draw people in. Another big difference is the site of DPAC, which is on the edge of downtown, with empty lots and parking lots on two sides, the County Jail across the street and few restaurant options within walking distance. UPAC’s location next to the busiest block of Main Street with a TRAX stop a half block away is a giant advantage. Restaurants within a block in all directions and adjacent parking make it desirable and accessible.
DPAC exterior

DPAC exterior


UPAC has so many advantages over DPAC that it will easily have the attendance success that DPAC has had. And it will be a more beautiful and patron-friendly addition to the surrounding metro area. In two years, Utah will have one of the best performing arts venues in the country.





WORK HAS BEGUN – UPAC MAKES ITS MARK ON MAIN STREET

23 02 2014

Main Street

Demolition Begins on Main Street

The first phase of construction for the new UPAC has started, with construction walkways up on Main Street and 100 South. Demolition has started. The NAC building is already an empty lot full of rubble. In just two years, Utah will have a one of the most advanced, handsome and audience-friendly performing arts centers in North America. Also, a 24-story office tower will be built on the north side of UPAC.

Architect's Rendering of New UPAC

Architect’s Rendering of New UPAC

Here is the construction schedule that was announced a few months ago:

Preparation for Demolition – December, 2013
• The buildings located at 115, 125, 127 and 135 South Main will be prepared for demolition.
• Material from inside these buildings will be removed.
• Utilities will be disconnected in the majority of the buildings in mid-December. The Old Navy building will be disconnected in early January.
• Regent Street will close between Orpheum Avenue and the Walker Center loading docks in mid-December. Pedestrian access will be maintained on the west side of Regent Street and vehicular access will be maintained on Orpheum Avenue.

Demolition Plan

Demolition Plan

Demolition – January, 2014
• Demolition, shoring and excavation
activities are scheduled to begin January
2014. Work will start at the southeast
corner of the property and move toward the northwest section.
• Demolition is scheduled to last 3-4 months.

Construction –Spring, 2014
• Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2014.
• Construction is scheduled to be completed by January 2016





THE CAPITOL THEATRE’S HIDDEN ART GALLERY

24 08 2013

an appalling notion, fully realized

an appalling notion, fully realized

After Jersey Boys left the Capitol at the end of June, a major renovation of the theater was begun. New seating, an expanded orchestra pit, bigger lobby and more restrooms are some of the improvements being made. Next door, a home for Ballet West and their ballet academy has been started, too.
Because a few walls will be moved or knocked down, I had the opportunity to photograph a unique collection of murals that line the hallways of the lower level of the theater. This is where stars put on makeup and costumes and production managers plan their show’s next move to Los Angeles or Calgary. It is the part of the theater that audiences never see.
Utah's favorite musical

Utah’s favorite musical

Starting in 1992, touring shows left paintings on the walls outside dressing rooms and offices below the stage and seating area. Some talented member of the show’s crew or cast put many hours of work into leaving a permanent artistic record of their visit to Utah.

Some shows left behind their logo as seen on posters and ads. Most shows painted new representations of the show’s brand, often with wonderful results. Many are signed by the entire cast and crew. One of my favorite murals is The Full Monty, with individual caricatures of each cast member and role. And another is Urinetown, just because it is one of the best and most fun musicals ever.

Capitol lobby will be expanded into the Ballet annex

Capitol lobby will be expanded into the Ballet annex


After I photographed the murals, the construction began in earnest and walls started to disappear. A few weeks later, I took some shots of the dusty construction site showing the extent of the work being done. I discovered that I had missed the mural commemorating the visit of the Addams Family. But I was too late – half of the mural used to be where there is now an enlarged doorway which will enable costume and wig travel boxes to move more freely from truck to dressing rooms. Sigh. A little bit of Capitol history – gone forever.
If you want to see all the other murals, click on this link.
all the seats are gone, but they will be back with better sightlines and more space

all the seats are gone, but they will be back with better sightlines and more space





THE SEASON 2013

11 06 2013

Times Square

Times Square

I was in New York recently for the Spring Road Conference of the Broadway League. This annual meeting brings touring Broadway presentors from North America together with agents, producers and marketers from Broadway. The hot topic this year was the same issue that has President Obama on the defensive lately – data mining. Almost half of the conference sessions at least touched on how to improve communications with customers and how to know them better. One entire day was devoted to digital marketing. SEO, SEM, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google ad words, databases and Instagram were subjects that every presentor and producer had to learn more about.
130515NYC007-2kOf course, the week was truly about the shows, and what would be touring in coming seasons. This year was a pleasant surprise – five new musicals were each selling close to or over a $1 million per week. In addition, two star vehicle plays – Bette Midler in I’ll Eat You Last and Tom Hanks in Lucky Guy – were doing big business, which adds a great deal of buzz to Times Square. You should see the crowds outside Hanks’s stage door each night – they fill up 44th Street, blocking most traffic and you can hear the screams halfway down the block when he finally appears.
Two of the hot-sellers are revivals – Cinderella and Pippin. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was first produced in 1957 for CBS-TV. There have been many other productions since then, but this is the first time it has appeared on Broadway. Pippin, with music by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell and Wicked) and choreography by Bob Fosse, won Tony Awards in 1973 and ran for almost five years. Curiously, the London production lasted only 85 performances. The 2013 production is reconfigured as a circus with high-wire trapeze acts and acrobats overwhelming the classic Fosse choreography. Regardless of the new elements, Pippin is a thoughtful story about the search for one’s identity with memorable and moving music.
A hit from London

A hit from London


The most anticipated and best-reviewed new production is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s MATILDA the Musical, an import from London based on Roald Dahl’s famous book. Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull is uniquely wonderful and bizarre, while the four girls who play Matilda are all standouts in their role as an unwanted child who takes on the world – and wins.
Kinky Boots, with book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Cyndi Lauper is the favorite of the Broadway community. It is a strange and unlikely story about two men, one gay cross-dresser and one straight small business owner, who work together to save a shoe business and along the way teach the rest of the cast and the audience some very good lessons and love and life. Kinky Boots should be a multi-winner at the Tony Awards.
Box Office Hit

Box Office Hit


And the big box office hit so far is Motown the Musical, which is rumored to have the largest advance sales of any new show this season. Based on the life of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, this show is a celebration of the Motown sound that everyone knows and loves. The audience is applauding and singing along by the second number in the overture and by the end of the evening they are dancing in the aisles. The fact that the New York reviewers didn’t like it will not keep this show from being a monster, cross-country hit.
After seeing new shows each year, I try to decide which ones will come to Utah in the next few years. I hope and expect that every one of these five hits will be presented in the Capitol, or, perhaps, in the new Utah Performing Arts Center. With the exception of some content in Kinky Boots that will be challenging to conservative Utah mores, each of these musicals will be loved by both Broadway in Utah subscribers and the broader arts audience that looks for exciting performing arts experiences.
The Great White Way is flourishing. Broadway is bursting with new exhilarating new productions that will travel across the country and be seen by theater-lovers from Boston to Boise.
Bright Lights on 45th Street

Bright Lights on 45th Street





WHAT’S NEW IN THE WEST END?

11 05 2013

On Broadway, shows have been popping up like spring tulips in the front yard, with producers rushing to open their new shows before the recent Tony deadline. In the West End of London it is often possible to see some of the hits that will be nominated for next year’s Tony Awards. I spent a few days in London last month looking for the shows that might headline the Broadway in Utah seasons in coming years. I found a few possibilities, but no sure things.

Free Marketing for Book of Mormon

Free Marketing for Book of Mormon


Many of the West End theaters are filled with the same big hits that one finds on Broadway – Wicked, Lion King, Jersey Boys. Matilda the Musical has been running successfully here for over a year – and just opened on Broadway to raves. Once and Book of Mormon opened recently to mostly good reviews. Book for Mormon is getting lots of marketing help (as if it needs it) from the LDS Church, that is running their “I’m a Mormon” campaign with signs on buses and in subway stations everywhere.
The most popular new musicals in London all trace their origins to well-known movies. A production of SINGIN IN THE RAIN (from the 1952 movie starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds), complete with a 3000-gallon on-stage downpour that soaks the front row as well as the actor who dances the number made famous by Kelly. One of the most fun shows is TOP HAT, based on the Ginger Rogers – Fred Astaire movie of 1935. This is a big production with a talented cast and is full of the best tap dancing I have seen this century.
Top Hat marquee

Top Hat marquee


My choice for the most likely successful transfer to Broadway is the musical THE BODYGUARD, based on the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner movie. It is big and loud, with beautiful music and wonderful voices. I missed seeing Tony-winner Heather Headley in the Whitney role, but even her understudy had a fabulous voice. Lloyd Owen as the bodyguard was macho and likeable, but must ignore the many times he didn’t look over his shoulder to see the assassin lurking nearby.
I also saw the uproarius comedy ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS, which had a four-month run on Broadway a year ago. This is another successful transfer from the National Theatre to the West End and is still playing to full houses two years after its debut at the National. “The funniest show on the planet” is an accurate description of this play, which is based on a 1743 Italian comedy One Servant of Two Masters. It is unfortunate that US audiences didn’t have more time to enjoy this GEM.
SRO Hit Curious Incident

SRO Hit Curious Incident


I could not get tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It opened at the National Theatre in 2012, transferred to the West End two months ago and has been playing to full houses. It should have no trouble getting to Broadway, though straight plays rarely have as much success in New York compared to London.
Another show I did not see was a new musical based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I doesn’t open until May 17, but with the great success of Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, this production will be greeted with great anticipation.
the Bodyguard

the Bodyguard


And which of these shows will get to the Capitol Theatre, or the Utah Performing Arts Center? I predict Utah audiences will be seeing both TOP HAT and THE BODYGUARD.