Meet our renovated space: The Music Hall Lounge!
The Music Hall unveils plans for the new “The Music Hall Lounge” that includes a major overhaul of their smaller venue
The theater space formerly known as “The Loft” is being entirely renovated in downtown Portsmouth.
One of New England’s most successful and historic theaters is modernizing its smaller venue on Congress Street in downtown Portsmouth. The newly named “The Music Hall Lounge” is an exciting new venue that will offer a nightclub vibe with flexible seating options, bar and food service, and an open concept that will appeal to a diverse audience. Formerly known as “The Loft,” the updated venue is currently under construction and will open early this summer.
The Music Hall’s Executive Director Tina Sawtelle says, “Over the years we have heard from our patrons that they want a dynamic, comfortable space that allows for more social interaction among our guests and between the performing artists and audience. This renovation will enable us to attract and accommodate emerging artists, local talent, comedians, authors, and more. And it will also greatly improve our rental capability.”
The stage of the 100-seat venue will be visible from the street, welcoming passersby to see the action inside. The Music Hall is working with Studio KL and Market Street Architects on the project. Principal Rob Harbeson says the big difference people will notice is the versatility of the space; “The Music Hall Lounge will have a modern, mercantile feel to it with updated lighting and audiovisual equipment, in addition to many warm elements throughout the theater, including wood features, a fireplace, a variety of seating options, and big pops of color to create a real cabaret feel.”
The original Music Hall first opened its doors in 1878 as a Vaudeville theater. In 1987 the nonprofit organization was founded and a massive restoration effort followed. The large, historic Victorian theater is the oldest in NH and seats nearly 900 people. Eleven years ago, the organization expanded its performing arts offerings by converting a former retail space on Congress Street into a small black box theater.
It was time for a change in the space, says The Music Hall Director of Communications & Community Engagement Monte Bohanan. After shuttering the venue at the beginning of the pandemic, The Music Hall team assessed the space and created a plan to bring it back to life, with new technology, flexible seating options, and must-needed aesthetic updates. After reviewing business models to use the space efficiently, the renovations began to “future-proof” the smaller venue in September 2021. Sawtelle said, “We were fortunate to have tremendous steadfast support from our donors along with receiving COVID stimulus funding. This allowed us to free up other funds without running a capital campaign or seeking funding elsewhere.”
Bohanan added, “This transformation of the former “Loft” into “The Music Hall Lounge” will attract a more diverse audience and allow us to showcase local musicians and talent. I love that guests will have an unobstructed view of the stage area from anywhere in the space. It’s an exciting time as we continue to play an important role in making Portsmouth an important artistic and cultural destination in the region.”
The revitalized space will continue to host high-quality programming including national and international music acts, comedians, and authors. It will also bring back its offerings as a rental space for business meetings and private events. The Music Hall is planning a series of soft openings, with a grand opening anticipated for mid-July 2022.