Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Roberts Orpheum Theater: Underutilized?

The RFT recently featured a conversation between its theater reviewers, Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold, regarding the state of theater in St. Louis. The discussion touched on the role that the Peabody Opera House will play in the cultural scene, as well as the underuse of the Roberts Orpheum.
Dennis Brown: Last week we talked about the year just ended. Today let's chat about the year to come. Perhaps the big event — at least the most costly — will be the expected reopening this fall of the old Kiel Opera House. Although renovated at enormous taxpayer expense, nevertheless it should wonderfully fill the city's desperate need for yet another theater that is too large.
Paul Friswold: I'm on the fence about the new Peabody. The city put up quite a bit more dough for a football stadium and a baseball stadium, and I've never been to either. And yet I paid for them, at least in part. So I suppose I should be thrilled that this time my money is going to something I'll visit every now and again. I do wonder what will play here — will the Peabody attract more Broadway tours? I'd rather see the city splash out some cash for any of the local gypsy companies than for a big barn for touring productions, but at least the money's not being spent on a basketball team. In short, I'll take it and like it.
Brown: I think it's indisputable that cities need the arts if their downtown areas are to thrive. Look at Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis. Color me old-fashioned, but I've always believed that downtown St. Louis begins east of 12th Street, so I don't see the Peabody having an impact on downtown. Meanwhile, the Roberts Orpheum Theater is downtown and plays no theater role whatsoever.
Friswold: And that puzzles me. Two Decembers ago Stages St. Louis presented a Little Women at the Roberts that worked well from an audience point of view, and it felt like an event. Why doesn't the Orpheum house more theater?
Brown: Why indeed? I'll try to keep an open mind about the opera house, but the cynic in me is certainly stirring.


Chris said...

Turn it back into cool concert venue it used to be.

Mark Groth said...

^I agree with Chris. I saw a Beck show there that was legendary back in the 90s. We need more venues that size to compete for shows between the Old Rock House and Pageant. And the American had soul.

Brian said...

Totally. I've seen some great bands there too, including Wilco on their first tour. Excellent acoustics and atmosphere.