It's Showtime! Casino Theatre Re-Opens

It's Showtime! Casino Theatre Re-Opens

After more than a year of many hours of work by numerous restoration and construction companies, and through the generous support of many dedicated donors, the curtain has been raised once again at the historic Casino Theatre, which was constructed in 1880 as part of the Newport Casino complex. After nearly 30 years of vacancy, the stunning facility opened to the public once again on October 15, 2010 with a performance of Peter & The Wolf, put on by Salve Regina University.

Since it opened in 1880, the facility has hosted some of the biggest performers of screen and stage, legends like Orson Welles, Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish and Vincent Price, but it has been inactive since the 1980s, closed due to structural concerns.

However, through a creative partnership between the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and Salve Regina University, along with the dedication, vision, and fundraising efforts of a committee of supporters, the stage is live once again. The group worked cooperatively to raise the $5.2 million necessary to restore the theatre to its original grandeur, and a partnership has been established in which the Salve Regina University Department of Performing Arts will manage and maintain the facility day-to-day, with the Hall of Fame retaining the venue for special events on select days.  The partnership provides the students with the opportunity to study all aspects of the theatre from acting and directing to set design, lighting, and facility management.

Martha Werenfels, a principal at Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects, a 30-person firm in Providence, RI, oversaw the restoration, along with James Farrar, owner and president of Farrar & Associates, Inc., a Newport-based construction and project management company.

The extensive project included replacing the facility’s signature Shingle Style exterior, installing a full fire suppression system and a new heating and cooling system, and improvements to the electrical system – including raising a new chandelier. In addition, new bathrooms were installed, the dressing rooms were completely overhauled, and a green room and costume shop were developed in the area beneath the stage.

The theatre’s historic value and stunning detail was taken into account with every step of the project, ensuring that people viewing the final product would feel as if it was exactly as it had been intended in 1880. For example, while the theatre features state-of-the-art technology, all of the new audio/visual and heating/cooling equipment has been artfully blended into the structure. In addition, although the seats are all brand new, they were obtained from American Seating, the Michigan-based seating company that crafted the original seats. They have been color-matched to the originals and even include the holders for gentlemen’s top hats beneath the seat.

Salve Regina University has a full schedule of performances for the year-ahead. Click here for details. 

Photos: Modern photo by Kim Fuller. Historic photo, Courtesy of International Tennis Hall of Fame.