10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT MADISON’S ORPHEUM THEATER
State Street, located in the heart of Madison, offers many well-known ways to spend a day: Overture Center for the Arts, Ian’s Pizza and perfect proximity to the Wisconsin State Capitol. But perhaps the most iconic sight is The Orpheum Theater, marked by its marquee sign and storied past. Did you know… ?
The theater recently received a bright, shiny new 85-foot-high marquee.
Built in 1926, the theater has had several variations of its celebrated sign. The latest 2,000-light incarnation, constructed by Mount Horeb’s Sign Art Studio, was put up in July 2016.
The original was designed by a famous pair of architect brothers.
The architectural firm Rapp and Rapp created the impressive Art Deco building. The brothers were known for their “movie palaces,” including the Chicago Theater and Paramount Theatres in New York.
Much of the financial support came from a dentist.
The theater, which cost $750,000 to build, became possible thanks to the generous financial backing of dentist William Beecroft, a huge film buff who earned the nickname “Mr. Theater.”
The Orpheum was the first building in Wisconsin to have air conditioning.
And the air conditioner took up an entire basement! Audiences enjoyed cool comfort as they watched movies and vaudeville performances in the French Renaissance-style theater.
It was neglected several times over the years.
The original sign was replaced in the 1950s by a toned-down version, minimizing the theater’s former glory. In the 2000s, there was an extensive fire in the theater.
The theater was brought back to life by a local businessman.
In 2013, Gus Paras, a downtown developer, purchased The Orpheum and restored it from the inside out, addressing the 2,186-seat theater’s plaster damage, chipping paint, fire damage and more.
It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2008, The Orpheum received the honor of being added to the National Register of Historic Places, alongside landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Gateway Arch.
The theater is a popular spot for weddings.
Couples looking for a unique way to tie the knot hold ceremonies in the theater and enjoy cocktails in the lobby. The bride and groom’s names are even put up on the marquee.
A top live-events company manages The Orpheum.
In 2016, the widely-respected Live Nation took over the theater’s entertainment offerings, booking big-draw concerts and theatrical productions and aiding in the continued revitalization of The Orpheum.
Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Bette Davis have performed at the theater.
The venue has welcomed its fair share of legends, and continues to spotlight celebrated performers and legends-in-the-making. Upcoming offerings include Melissa Etheridge, Skillet and The Head and the Heart.