Seeing Stars: Live on Stage


6233 Hollywood Boulevard,
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 468-1770 or (323) 468-1700


Just east of the famous corner of Hollywood & Vine, you'll find the historic Pantages Theatre. Built in 1930 (shortly after the birth of "talkies") for the then-princely sum of $1.25 million, the Pantages (then part of the Fox movie theatre chain) was one of the most beautiful theatres in town. It hosted the star-studded premieres of such films as "Pride of the Yankees," "Cleopatra" and Judy Garland's "A Star is Born."

Howard Hughes bought the theatre in 1949 and added it to his RKO chain.

The annual Academy Award ceremonies were held at the Pantages throughout the 1950's; which included the first time the Oscar ceremonies were ever televised (in 1953).

And the Emmy Awards were held here each year until 1977, when they moved to Pasadena.

The Pantages re-opened as a legitimate (live) theater in 1977, offering Broadway-style musicals on its large stage. The first live musical to play the Pantages was "Bubbling Brown Sugar," and more recent shows included "The Will Rogers Follies" (starring actor Keith Carradine), "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (starring Michael Damian), and the Broadway revivals of "Camelot" (with Robert Goulet), "Guys & Dolls," and "The Sound of Music" (with Marie Osmond).

In 1992, the Pantages made an appearance in the hit movie "The Bodyguard" with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. The Academy Award scenes (in which Whitney is the target of an assassin) were shot inside the Pantages.

In October of 1995, the late George Burns taped a TV special commemorating his 100th birthday here at the Pantages; among the invited guests were Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, Paul Reiser, Brooke Shields, Ann-Margret and Whitney Houston.

The Pantages seats 2,691 in very comfortable seats. The theatre's elaborate Art Deco lobby is still stunning today, with soaring ceilings and plush carpeting. (You can see it for yourself in Michael Jackson's recent video, "You Are Not Alone.").

In 1998, the Pantages hosted "Phantom of the Opera," "Riverdance," "The King & I" (with Marie Osmond) and "Peter Pan" (with Cathy Rigby), as well as live concerts, such as the 1998 Bonnie Raitt tour. 1999 kicked off with a revival of "Annie," featuring Sally Struthers as Miss Hannigan.

In March of 1999, the theatre hosted the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards; the show opened with a performance by Mariah Carey, and attracted stars such as Julia Roberts, Garth Brooks, Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Zane, Robert Duvall, Jennifer Tilly, Janet Jackson, Linda Hamilton, Fran Drescher, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Howard Stern, Vanessa Williams, Neve Campbell, Minnie Driver, Laura San Giacomo, "Titanic" director James Cameron, and performances from groups like Savage Garden and Boyz II Men.

The Walt Disney Company has long had a presence on Hollywood Boulevard with its El Capitan movie theatre, but from October 2000 to January 2003, it had a live stage presence as well: Disney opened its smash hit Broadway musical version of "The Lion King" at the Pantages. On the first day the box office opened, Disney reportedly sold $3.7 million in tickets to "The Lion King," and that's not counting the $17 million previously moved through advance sales. In total, the show played to 2,311,397 guests and brought in over $142 million.

But the best news is that in order to get the theatre ready for the big Disney show, the Pantages invested almost $10 million in a massive facelift of the landmark theatre, restoring it to its original glory. The Pantages was always something to behold, but its dazzling, ornate interior, gleaming with new gold leaf, is now simply spectacular. It's almost worth the price of tickets to a show just to see the theatre itself. But with shows like "The Lion King" running, you now get two treats for the price of one.

The Pantages went on to another smash Broadway musical: Mel Brooks' "The Producers". It opened on May 2, 2003, and starred Jason Alexander (of "Seinfeld") & Martin Short, as the con-men who try to make money by staging a show that's guaranteed to bomb: "Springtime for Hitler." Of course "The Producers" did the exact opposite - the show took home more Tony Awards than any show in history (12), including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.

More recent shows at the Pantages included "Mama Mia" (based on the songs of Abba), "Miss Saigon", "Movin' Out" (based on the songs of Billy Joel), "Peter Pan" (starring Cathy Rigby), "Les Miserables", "Oklahoma!", "Evita" and "The King and I" starring Stephanie Powers.

Right now (as of 2008), the Pantages is home to the hit Broadway musical "Wicked" (a prequel, of sorts, to "The Wizard of Oz"), which will run there until January of 2009.

The February 2007 opening of "Wicked" brought out stars like Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner ("Alias"), Sean Astin ("Lord of the Rings"), Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), Tony Shalhoub ("Monk"), Shannon Elizabeth ("American Pie"), Angela Bassett ("What's Love Got To Do With It ?"), Victor Garber ("Alias") and Joely Fisher ("Inspector Gadget").


In 2010-2011, the Pantages will host a series of hit Broadway musicals, including "Chicago", "Phantom of the Opera", "West Side Story", "Hair", "Traces", "Spring Awakening", "Rock of Ages", "Avenue Q", "Beauty & the Beast", "Rain", "Burn the Floor" and "Shrek: the Musical".

The Pantages is a gorgeous theatre, but since it started out as a movie theatre, it does have its limitations when it comes to live performances. The lobby, for instance, is small by Broadway standards, and becomes uncomfortably crowded during intermission.

Celebs spotted at the Pantages in the last few years have included Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Billy Joel, Kate Hudson, Sally Field, Goldie Hawn, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Tilly, Ben Kingsley, Anjelica Houston, Tim Allen, Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks, Christina Applegate, Alec Baldwin, Julia Louise Dreyfus, Wilmer Valderrama, Tori Spelling, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sharon Lawrence, David Hasselhoff, Loni Anderson, Tori Spelling, Marilu Henner, Marion Ross and Susan Blakely.

 Getting there: The Pantages is located on the north side of Hollywood Blvd., just east of the northeast corner of Hollywood & Vine. From Grauman's Chinese Theatre, just head east.

[For more information on this subject, you can access the Pantages' own website at: http://www.nederlander.com/pantages.html.]



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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