The city of Lexington was once known as “the Athens of the West” and the Lexington Opera House has been central to that theme since 1886. 2016 marks the 130th birthday for the historic landmark and the 40th season of Broadway Live.
“We are excited to announce our 40th Anniversary season of professional touring Broadway shows along with Variety Live specials to celebrate our dual birthdays,” said Opera House Director Luanne Franklin. “Our Broadway Live series is among the oldest in the nation. And the Opera House is one of only 14 theatres across the nation with less than 100 seats, built before 1900 – yet still offering touring Broadway productions!”
Established in 1886, the Opera house was designed by Oscar Cobb, a leading theatrical architect of the day. During its early days the theatre played host to many well-known celebrities, including Maude Adams, Anna Pavlova, George M. Cohan, W.C. Fields, John Phillips Sousa and many others. Around the turn of the century, vaudeville and burlesque began to replace legitimate theatre. And though the Opera House holds the distinction of offering the first motion picture in Lexington, with the advent of films, many theatres– including the Opera House - fell into decline.
In the early 1970s as Lexington prepared for a new Civic Center and Rupp Arena, The Opera House had been condemned and was to be destroyed. Led by Linda and George Carey, along with W.T. Young, Jim Host and others, a campaign grew to save and restore the theatre and make it a part of Lexington Center. The Opera House Fund has continued its support of performing arts at the venue, contributing over $11 million in the past 40 years.
“The Lexington Opera House has been in service for 130 years and continues to go strong,” Lexington Center CEO and President Bill Owen said. “It is important to recognize that this historic theatre continues to serve as a vibrant part of the Lexington community. The Opera House is a shining example of creativity, ingenuity, collaboration and cooperation.”
The new Broadway Live and Variety Live seasons feature musicals, comedy and concerts—something for everyone, including entertainment for the entire family. Packages are already on sale through the Lexington Center Ticket Office and provide the best opportunity for great seats at the lowest prices. “We want to ensure that our guests have a memorable experience from start to finish, and we invite everyone to join the celebration of our anniversaries this year!” Franklin said. “There’s no better place to see a Broadway show. Like the matriarch of a fine old Lexington family, The Lexington Opera House continues to welcome her guests with southern charm and elegant hospitality.”