A safety curtain is a fire safety precaution used in large proscenium theaters. It is usually a heavy fiberglass or iron curtain located immediately behind the proscenium arch. Its purpose is to contain any fire to the stage to allow time for the audience to evacuate safely. These curtains were used in Europe for many years but it wasn’t until after December 30, 1903 that regulations regarding these curtains became much tighter in the United States.
On December 30, 1903 people were filing into the Iroquois Theater in Chicago. Women and children gathered to watch a matinee production of Mr. Bluebeard staring Eddie Foy. At the time the theater was only 5 weeks old and had been labeled fireproof beyond a doubt by designer Benjamin Marshal as well as city fire inspector Ed Laughlin. Once the audience members had taken their seats ushers were instructed to lock 27 of the theater’s 30 exits to prevent people from sneaking in.
The entrance of the Iroquois Theater in Chicago 1903.
During the second act of the show an arc light sparked catching the painted canvas backdrops on fire. Foy ran back on stage to try to calm people letting them know the fire curtain would be lowered. As the curtain was lowered it became caught and unable to reach the floor causing major panic. It was later discovered the curtain was made of paper and would not have helped even if it had come down completely. Ushers fled the theater first forgetting to unlock the 27 exit doors resulting in the death of 600 people.
Aftermath of the Iroquois Theater fire 1903
Since that major tragedy fire curtains are now a staple in any large theater venue. The original fire curtain for the Hollywood Pantages Theatre was lost when it did its job after a spark from a music stand in the orchestra pit set it ablaze. It depicted the evolution of man, art and architecture.
Hollywood Pantages original fire curtain
The current Hollywood Pantages Theatre fire curtain is rarely lowered with the exception of the occasional photo shoot. It depicts a painting of billowing clouds and a flock of flying birds.
Musicals are everywhere! From the Broadway stage to live television broadcasts, musicals have had an amazing resurgence in current pop culture. And every few months or so we all get teased with the possibility of a Wicked movie. There has also been a lot of talk lately about an In The Heights or possibly even a Hamilton movie! While we patiently hold our breath for those projects to happen, here is a list of some of our favorite shows that have gone beyond the stage.
“Greased Lightning” from the 1978 motion picture Grease
This Broadway musical made its debut in 1972. The concept was created over a couple of beers at a party by creators Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey in an effort to go against the grain of “traditional” Broadway shows. The show opened one year later at the Eden Theatre, just off Broadway, but was not the success originally hoped for. Loved by the public but scrutinized by critics the show ultimately was snubbed by the Tony Awards because the Eden Theatre did not qualify as a Broadway Theatre. It wasn’t until 1978 when the smash hit film took the story to the next level. Since then the show has seen numerous revivals, high school productions, and even a live broadcast on Fox.
Grease Live January 31, 2016
Hairspray is the 1988 movie turned Broadway show turned 2007 movie turned upcoming NBC live broadcast! The original 1988 film featuring notable actors such as Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, Ricki Lake, and Jerry Stiller had a modest release at the box office but developed a cult following up its release on home video. (Which is like Blu Ray and DVD release for our younger readers.) In 2002 the Broadway musical debuted staring the ever fierce Harvey Firestein as Edna Turnblad. The show picked up 8 Tony Award wins including Best Musical.
Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 motion picture Hairspray.
In 2007 the hunt for the next Tracy was on as the story took to the silver screen once more. This time some script changes were in order and a star studded cast including John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, and Zac Efron came together to break box office records for the biggest opening weekend of a movie musical.
Now we anxiously await for more news about the NBC’s Hairspray Live which has already announced the return of Harvey Firestein as Edna Turnblad as well as Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Martin Short and newcomer Maddie Baillio.
Cast of the 1978 motion picture The Wiz
The Wiz, Also known by its original name The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz, opened on October 21, 1974 in Baltimore. In 1975 the show took to Broadway and racked up 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical and became an early example of Broadway’s mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast. In 1978 the film version was released and became an instant cult classic. In December of 2015 NBC broadcasted The Wiz Live featuring Common, Amber Riley, Uzo Aduba, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, and Queen Latifah.
Originally based on a play by the same name the story is a satire on the corruption n the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the “celebrity criminal” With music by John Kander, lyrics and book by Fred Ebb, choreography by Bob Fosse, this show was set to be a hit. The original production only ran on Broadway for 936 performances until 1977 but it was the revival that gained the momentum. It currently holds the record as the longest running musical revival in American Broadway history. Now the show has a reputation of casting an on going onslaught of celebrities in its leading roles such as Brandy, Eddie George, Rumer Willis, Patrick Swayze, Usher, Michael C. Hall and many more.
In 2002 the film, directed by Rob Marshall, pulled together an outstanding cast including Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones to name a few. In 2003 the film scored 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
This show got started just a bit differently than most. The show opened in London’s West End in 1999. Being completely comprised of songs from the Swedish pop/dance group ABBA, producer Judy Craymer was nervous about how well the show would be received. It wasn’t long before the craze caught on and in 2001 the Mamma Mia opened on Broadway. Since then, the show has has 5,773 performances on Broadway and has played in 40 countries. In September of 2015 Mamma Mia said goodbye to Broadway but continues to tour.
In 2008 the Mamma Mia went from stage to screen. I think we can all agree that Meryl Streep was the best part of this adaptation but was well supported by her cast including Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Amanda Seyfried. The movie received mixed reviews from critics and was considered a box office flop but you can’t escape the power of the soundtrack!
Sound of Music
Julie Andrews (Maria) The Sound of Music film
This Rogers and Hammerstein classic opened on Broadway in November of 1959. The story, based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, earned 9 Tony nominations and 5 Tony wins including Best Musical. Sadly this would be the last musical written by the Rogers and Hammerstein team as Oscar Hammerstein died only nine months after the Broadway premiere. In 1965 the film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer would walk away with five Academy Awards.
Mary Martin in the original Broadway production.
In 2013 the resurgence of the live television musical event was brought back to life with NBC’s Sound of Music Live. While critics thought Carrie Underwood’s performance was amateur at best the ratings sang a different tune. The Sound of Music Live brought the network its highest Thursday night viewership since the series finale of Frasier in 2004 with 18.62 million viewers.
The Rocky Horror Show
Not many people know that The Rocky Horror Show made its U.S. debut in Los Angeles at the Roxy Theatre in 1974 before heading to Broadway in 1975. It only lasted three previews and forty five showings despite earning one Tony nomination. It wasn’t until the 1975 film, staring Tim Curry as everyone’s favorite sweet transvestite, and re-dubbed as the Rocky Horror Picture Show that things really took off. The Rocky Horror Picture Show holds the record for the longest-running release in film history.
And to top things off this Halloween Fox plans to release a reboot! Stars include Laverne Cox as Frank N. Furter, Christina Milian, Adam Lambert and more. Check out the trailer below.
What Broadway show do you want to see as a movie or T.V. special?
A classic show that has seen many iterations since the 1960’s, Cabaret is still going strong. As we know here at the Hollywood Pantages, just because something has been around for a long time does not mean you know everything about it. We did a little digging on Cabaret, playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre July 19 – August 7th, and here is what we found.
The original Broadway production of Cabaret opened on November 20, 1966. In addition to several Broadway revivals and West End revivals, Cabaret has been staged in over 16 countries across the globe. Roundabout Theatre Company’s most recent revival opened at Studio 54 on April 24, 2014 in which Alan Cumming returned to revive his Tony-Winning turn as the Emcee.
Alan Cumming as the Emcee in Cabaret
For those of you currently enjoying Chicago now playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre you may consider Cabaret for your next theatre outing. Both shows were written by the highly successful songwriting team, composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, and have more in common that you may know. Kander and Ebb’s greatest acclaim came from Cabaret in 1966. The musical, directed by frequent collaborator Harold Prince, was a major success, with a Broadway run of over 1,100 performances. It won a Tony Award as the season’s best musical, and its original cast recording won a Grammy Award. The film, directed by Bob Fosse, won eight Academy Awards. The musical Chicago (1975) after an excellent initial run of 936 performances was revived on Broadway in 1996 to become an even greater hit. It has become the longest-running revival in Broadway history, and the 2002 film version was also a great success.
Many well known leading ladies have claimed the role of the British singer Sally Bowles each bringing their own version of the character to the stage. Starting with Judi Dench in the original London production in 1968, other notable Sally’s include Natasha Richardson, Brooke Shields, Molly Ringwald, Emma Stone, Debbie Gibson, Teri Hatcher, and who could forget Liza Minelli for her portrayal in the 1972 Oscar-Winning film.
Judi Dench in her provocative role as the amoral Sally Bowles in Cabaret, the new musical show at the Palace Theatre, London.
Emma Stone as Sally Bowles
Teri Hatcher as Sally Bowles
Debbie Gibson as Sally Bowles
Molly Ringwald as Sally Bowles
The multi-Oscar-winning movie makes several changes to the play; in addition to adding and dropping songs, the secondary love plot of the original is replaced with a different secondary plot, a male character is added whose role emphasizes the bisexuality of the leading male character, and the nationalities of Sally and Cliff are switched. (When ABC aired the movie for the first time, it cut out the revelation of Cliff’s affair with another man, which basically made hash of the end of the film.)
Cabaret 1972 Ral. : Bob Fosse Liza Minnelli COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL
Cabaret was based on several chapters from Christopher Isherwood’s somewhat autobiographical novel Goodbye to Berlin, and it seems that new versions of this story have always appeared at times of crisis in America. The novel appeared at the close of World War II; the non-musical stage version debuted during the McCarthy era; the stage musical opened during the Vietnam era; and the movie musical opened in the midst of the Watergate era. Each subsequent version of this story has been braver, edgier, more explicit, and only now can it be told completely truthfully. Only now can Cliff be fully gay as Christopher Isherwood – the real Cliff – was. Only now can the Kit Kat Klub be as sexual, as decadent, as it really was. Only now, after musicals like Assassins and Kiss of the Spider Woman, are musical theatre audiences ready for the disturbing extremity that this story really demands.
Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Sarah Bishop as Helga, Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles and Alison Ewing as Fritzie in the 2016 National Tour of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Now experience Cabaret for yourself at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre July 19-August 7. Direct from Broadway, CABARET reunites director Sam Mendes, co-director / choreographer Rob Marshall and many of the same creative team members behind the Tony-Winning 1998 revival production. The New York Times calls it, “Divinely, dangerously decadent,” while Time Out New York hails it “A Broadway jewel in all its glittering glory!”
Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.