This Week in History
Opulence Takes the Stage
For the week of Monday February 4, 2013
On February 9, 1914, the Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse officially opened its doors. This neo-classical building, both lavish and luxurious, was part of the wave of prosperity that washed over Winnipeg with the expansion into Western Canada.
Its architecture and design make the Pantages Playhouse one of the grandest theatres ever built in Canada. The building’s façade includes a number of classical elements, including the long marquee above the entrance. The interior features a large auditorium with architectural details along the walls. The mezzanine is specially designed to facilitate audience movements between performances. The theatre’s original decor, designed by noted painter and muralist J. E. Dolen, had a monochrome cream and beige palette, with silver and gold leaf to highlight mouldings and ornamentation.
Over the years, a number of well-known artists called this hub of artistic creativity home. Talented organist A. K. Gee performed there from 1930 until the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium opened in November 1932. During his performances, he was accompanied by some of the most outstanding classical musicians of the time. The theatre was home to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet from 1940 to 1967. Even today, many performers use the Pantages Playhouse Theatre to stage variety and dance shows and classical music, jazz and pop concerts.
Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse Theatre was designated as a site of national historic significance in 1985 owing to its status as one of the most beautiful of the few surviving examples of the Vaudeville theatres built in Canada between 1910 and 1930. It is currently being restored to preserve its place among the last of North America’s Vaudeville theatres.
To find out more about Canada’s concert halls and theatres, consult the following articles from the This Week In History archives: The Show Place of Toronto, Grand Old Lady of Grandville Street, A Gem of a Theatre, Something for Everyone, Take a Bow, The Granada, A Theatre of Dreams, There's No Business Like Show Business, Downtown Gala Held for Vogue Theatre, The Last Two-Storey Theatre, Canada's First Movie Palace and Tutus at Eaton Auditorium.
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