June 27 marked a new era in the Boston theater scene as the Emerson Colonial Theatre reopened to the public, resuming a long tradition of premiering iconic shows and creating community.
In a ceremony held under the Colonial’s new marquee, President Lee Pelton joined Boston Mayor Martin Walsh; representatives from theater operator Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG); and the cast of the Colonial’s opening production, the pre-Broadway world premiere of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, to cut the ribbon on the restored 1900 theater. Afterward, the box office opened for the first time to sell tickets to Moulin Rouge!
“With the reopening of the Colonial, we recognize this moment as one of increased access to the arts,” Pelton said in remarks. “The Colonial provides another venue in our city, an important, beautiful venue for all to experience the benefits and joy of the theater and the arts.”
The Colonial staged its last performance in 2015. In 2017, Emerson entered into a partnership with London-based ATG, one of the world’s leading theater operators, to refurbish and restore the century-year-old theater and return it to its historic role as a place from which Broadway hits were launched.
During much of the 20th century, the Colonial hosted a number of pre-Broadway tryouts for shows written by luminaries of the business: Cole Porter (Anything Goes, 1935); George Gershwin (Porgy and Bess, 1935); Rodgers and Hammerstein (Oklahoma!, 1943; Carousel, 1945); Irving Berlin (Annie Get Your Gun, 1946); Stephen Sondheim (Follies, 1971; A Little Night Music, 1973); and Jerry Herman (La Cage aux Folles, 1983).
On July 10, this tradition will continue with the opening of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film, which will run through August 19 at the Colonial before heading to New York.
Erica Lynn Schwartz, general manager of the Colonial, said she grew up hearing about the theater legends created at the Colonial and the work that “inspired generation after generation.
“We look forward to creating many more of those inspiring works and providing the community of Boston and beyond an opportunity to be changed by the live theatrical experience,” Schwartz said.
Mayor Walsh framed the Colonial restoration as one of many ways his administration and partners such as Emerson College are fostering and supporting arts and culture in the city.
“We’ve seen the role that theater plays right here in the City of Boston,” Walsh said. “We’ve seen how much it inspires Bostonians and people from all over Massachusetts, and how it fills them with joy. Today, history meets innovation, tradition meets progress. It’s my pleasure to see the Colonial cast in that role once again.”
In the past two years, Pelton said, Emerson has invested nearly $300 million into less than 100 meters along Boylston Street—investments that include the new Dining Center, Visitor Center, and 2 Boylston Place residence hall, as well as an ongoing reimagining of the Little Building and the Colonial Theatre.
Since 1990, the College has invested a total of $600 million into Boston’s downtown and Theater District, including restorations of the Cutler Majestic Theatre and the Paramount Center.
“Our vision is deeply grounded in the idea that Emerson energizes Boston, just as the College is energized by the city,” Pelton said. “We are re-envisioning Boylston Street…as a destination for all who work, live, study, and visit our great city.”
In addition to offering live performances to the public, ATG and Emerson will collaborate to provide experiential learning and internship opportunities to Emerson students.
During the ceremony, Schwartz also released the upcoming schedule for the Emerson Colonial Theatre. Check the Colonial website for details.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical – July 10 to August 19
Michael McDonald – September 22
Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games – September 28
Heather Headley: Broadway My Way – November 3
Rufus Wainwright: All These Poses Anniversary Tour – December 5
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis – December 8
The Hip Hop Nutcracker – December 15 and 16
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – December 18 to 30