The Details

Historic Tours @ The Historic Theater

Historical Tour

Historical Tour

The Music Hall, Portsmouth’s landmark Victorian theater and arts center, has announced its schedule for Summer 2013 historical tours. The behind-the-scenes tour of the Historic Theater, designated An American Treasure, will run on alternate Wednesdays at 5:30pm, June through August.  Running approximately 75 minutes, the tour includes visits to the backstage area where 1901 Vaudeville era “technology” is still in use, the antique front of house dating to 1878, and the enchanting lobby renovated with great flair in 2008.

Arranged and guided by Music Hall Historian Zhana Morris, also the theater’s production manager, the historical tour paints a full picture of the history of the treasured theater, including the tales of sailors who rigged the theater in the late 19th Century, its flashy and famous owners, and stars across three centuries. Its performers have ranged from Mark Twain to Wynton Marsalis and David Crosby; Vaudeville acts with animals to RENT the musical and violinist Joshua Bell.  Visitors will see the passage of time through the building’s award-winning restorations and renovations which have brought back details dating back to 1878 and 1901, the hall’s periods of architectural significance.

First stop is the Beaux Arts lobby which has been heralded in the regional and national press as “jaw-dropping”* and a “a one-of-a-kind surprise…. a world class space.”**  The 2,600 sq. ft space, including the box office, lower lobby, restrooms, elevator and coat check, reflects the Beaux Arts beauty of the theater above and showcases the theater’s history in a bold and theatrical way while offering striking 21st century amenities. Since the Lobby opened in September 2008, it has be compared to the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the design of ships that once filled Portsmouth’s harbor, the lushness of turn-of-the-century Colorado gold rush hotels, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The tour continues into the theater’s auditorium and up to its magnificent horseshoe balcony.  There the main attractions are the restored decorative paintings on the ceiling dome and the proscenium arch adorned with cherubs – award-winning restorations unveiled to the public in September 2007 and 2006. The extraordinary decorative artistry had been covered over and forgotten for decades, the work of original owners of The Music Hall and artisans from 1878 to 1901.  Visitors gain insight into the paintings’ history and their one-of-a-kind discovery in Winter 2007 – a find architectural conservators called “so dramatic, it takes your breath away.”+

Finally, visitors are invited backstage to view antique riggings still operating today. Merging a colorful past and present, the tour provides tour-goers with unique perspectives on yesterday, today, and the future of the oldest operating theater in northern New England.

Said Morris, “The artists who come here today are amazed, first, at how beautiful the theater is and, second, how we operate simultaneously in the old world and the new world in terms of technology and architecture.  When they see the packed audiences and hear the acoustically perfect sound that comes with our 1878 design, they are even more aware of what a gem The Music Hall is, the ‘beating cultural heart of the New Hampshire Seacoast region.’*** Our guest book is full of quotes worthy of framing, from my perspective. All of them encourage us to keep up with our work restoring the theater.”


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