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Theatrical Texas

Courtesy Galveston CVB

Texas cities large and small offer calendars filled with nonstop entertainment. Groups will find performances that appeal to every taste. Restored theaters, showstoppers in themselves, warrant tours that highlight their gorgeous interiors and recount colorful histories.

Jefferson Theatre
Beaumont’s Jefferson Theatre, designed by noted architect Emile Weil and built in 1927, underwent a $14 million renovation in 2000. The theater won Texas Downtown Association’s Texas Best Restoration in 2004.

Historically, the theater hosted traveling shows, vaudevillians, drama and movies. In 1946, the premiere of “It’s a Wonderful Life” was held at the theater, with star James Stewart and director Frank Capra in attendance.

Today, performances span Broadway productions to well-known comedians and smaller regional shows.

Spanish architecture and a grand chandelier add to the building’s intricate detail. The chandelier, which measures more than 18 feet in diameter and weighs 16,000 pounds, replicates those that hung in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

The theater’s Robert Morton Wonder Organ rises majestically from the orchestra pit to stage level and produces sounds that rival an actual orchestra.

“On tours, the organ with its 778 pipes is always a highlight,” said Ashley White, communications manager at the Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are approximately 20 working Morton organs in the nation.”

Civic Theater
The Henderson Civic Theater produces live shows in the town’s historic Opera House. Built in 1885, the building held performances until 1918, when it was sold and became a mercantile store. Twenty-five years ago, locals helped restore the theater to its original splendor.

“In different sections, they have peeled off the plaster down to the original brick so that people can see the history of the building,” said Suzanne Cross, tourism coordinator for the city of Henderson. “Before it became the theater, it was the army-navy store.”

Henderson’s downtown is designated a National Register Historic District, with reproduction gas streetlights and hanging baskets. The theater sits across the street from downtown’s focal point, Heritage Square, which has an old-fashioned street clock, landscaping and benches.

Grand 1894 Opera House
The Grand 1894 Opera House is one of the few remaining theaters of its era in the state. Located on Galveston Island and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has survived numerous hurricanes, including the 1900 storm, one of the worst in this nation’s history.

“The Grand was rebuilt within the year after that storm, and it became a gathering place for the community during rebuilding,” said Virginia Weber, development director at the Grand. “The building also survived Hurricane Ike in 2008, which hit on what would have been opening night. The Grand became an inspiration to other business to rebuild on the island.”

The season runs September through May with approximately 35 different performances, including well-known performers such as Carol Burnett, Sinbad and Frankie Valle.

Broadway shows are sprinkled throughout the season. With 1,000 seats, no seat is more than 70 feet from the stage.

“We have performers that are so impressed with our acoustics that they set down the microphone and continue their performance,” said Weber.

San Antonio Rose Live
San Antonio
The San Antonio Rose Live, a classic country music show, treats audiences to a journey through country music history with traditional country, Western swing and gospel music from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Housed in the historic Aztec Theatre on the River Walk, the restored building features Mayan architecture with gold leaf, electric reds and brilliant oranges throughout. The theater was built in 1926 as a movie house; during its renovation in 2009, its 970 seats were retooled for modern comfort with 24-inch-wide padded chairs and ample legroom.

The massive two-ton chandelier, which was added to the theater in 1929, was also restored and dominates the lobby.

“The theater is a spectacle in itself,” said Greg Gallaspy, CEO of San Antonio Rose Live. “Even the restrooms are opulent, with penny tile and large lounges sporting fireplaces where the women of that era smoked because they chose not to smoke in public.”

Dinner can be catered on the second-floor mezzanine overlooking the theater. Several River Walk restaurants partner with the theater as well.