Colonial Theatre

106 Boylston Street,
Boston, MA 02116

Unfavorite 6 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 57 comments

Rtprovencher on March 4, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Great news! In today’s (03/04/16) Boston Globe (p. B1) there is a feature story, entitled: “Emerson sees new life for Colonial Theatre”. Emerson College has decided to keep the Colonial intact as a performance space. It has also pledged to update the building’s support systems, such as: air conditioning. So, the Colonial’s future seems secure. I believe that all of the community pressure brought to bear (both internally and externally) made the difference to Emerson’s administration. One educator referred to, “…our collective responsibility as stewards of theatrical history.” It is unfortunate that more people do not share that view.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Just a short walk down Boylston St. to the west of the Colonial Theatre is a long-closed small concert hall called Steinert Hall. It was in use from the 1890s to about 1942 when it was closed by the owner, the M. Steinert piano company. Seats removed, it is intact and even the lights still work. But it’s 2 floors underground at its front end. I think it has issues with regard to the number of emergency exits. The old building was recently sold to one of M. Steinert’s customers who is a developer. He plans to rehab and update the building, with the piano company remaining as a tenant. And if he can get approval from a public safety point of view, he plans to restore and reopen Steinert Hall. (This auditorium would have made a great art-house cinema, with a name like Underground Cinema or The Lower Depths Cinema.)

DavidZornig on November 27, 2015 at 3:06 pm

1966 photo added courtesy of the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Today’s Quincy Patriot Ledger has a lengthy opinion piece by JoAnn Fitzpatrick which discusses the current plight of the Colonial and of the Boston University Theatre. She says that there was push-back by faculty, students and others against Emerson College’s plan for the Colonial and that there is a protest petition circulating which has garnered many hundreds of names including show composer Stephen Sondheim and the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization. She reports that the college trustees have now appointed a committee to study the situation. What’s to study? – the plan is a dumb idea.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 13, 2015 at 12:37 am

I think Northeastern built a dorm on the site of the former Opera House.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 10, 2015 at 2:05 pm

This unsettling story has been developing over the past few weeks. There are certain problems with the Colonial: it’s not a free-standing theater, but is part of an office building. (As J.J. Shubert pointed out to this son in the mid-1950s when his son wanted to sell the theater but keep the office building: How in hell are you going to do that, you moron- the theater is INSIDE the office building!!!) Another problem is the current lack of “product” -commercial touring shows. The stage is an old-fashioned “hemp” stage with rope lines and sandbags instead of the counterweight lines that young theater people are used to working with. But even with these problems, one would think that there was some imagination and responsibility at the college. Turning the Colonial into a student dining hall, with a black-box theater on stage, is like a pig in a poke. Northeastern Univ did tear down the wonderful old Boston Opera House on Huntington Avenue (halfway between Symphony Hall and the MFA, but not for a parking lot. Some sort of building went on the site. At the time, it was said that the opera house had developed structural problems and needed to go, but I think that was a “crock”.

Rtprovencher on October 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm

The very real possibility that Emerson, an institution devoted to the preservation and advancement of the arts, is about to end forever the Colonial’s life as a legitimate theater is sure to generate a lot of protest. Thanks to frequent stories by reporter Malcolm Gay in THE BOSTON GLOBE, the public is slowly realizing that America’s most historically significant theater is about to go the way of the Boston Opera House in the 1950’s. At that time, another Boston university, Northeastern, actually tore down Eben Jordan’s beautiful theater to create a parking lot. While Emerson is not proposing to tear down the Colonial, they might as well. What they are proposing is ripping out the orchestra seats and turning the theater into a gigantic student cafeteria, resplendent with holes punched in the walls to improve access to the food and turning the stage into a black box theater!

People need to tune into this one before it’s too late. Surely in a great university city like Boston, some of our great minds can think of ways to preserve the Colonial for the purpose for which it was built in 1900: a beautiful legitimate theater.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Today’s Boston Globe reports that Emerson College will close the theatre after the October run of “The Book of Mormon” ends, as the Wang Center’s lease on the Colonial is expiring. The future of the theatre is quite unclear.

Boston Globe story

Patsy on December 3, 2013 at 3:12 pm

This theatre is the current home of the I Love Lucy Live On Stage production. If you haven’t seen this show and you are in Boston….go! And if you haven’t ever been to the Lucy Comedy Festival in Jamestown NY….go! Jamestown is the birthplace of Lucille Ball, the First Lady of Comedy.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

In the entertainment section of today’s Quincy (MA) Patriot Ledger there is mention of the musical “Memphis” which it says is now playing “at the Citi Performing Arts Center Emerson Colonial Theater”. How’s that for a mouthful !

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I can’t remember the titles, but they are two touring shows, both musicals, I think. One is booked in Dec., and the other in Feb. Both are part of the Broadway in Boston line-up. Ads for them have run in the Quincy Patriot-Ledger; it was in these ads that I noted the change in the theater name.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 30, 2012 at 5:48 pm

What are the two shows? Are they a joint venture between ArtsEmerson and the Wang Center?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The Colonial has been closed since early-summer 2011. Now there are at least 2 touring shows booked for this 2012-2013 theatrical season. The theater’s name as printed in the ads for those shows is: “Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre”. Oh, barf.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm

The Colonial has been closed and unused during the present 2011-2012 theater season. But that will change next season because at least 2 or 3 shows have been booked there.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I walked by the Colonial yesterday and it’s totally dead and dark with posters for shows at the Boston Opera House in its poster frames.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I have heard that the booking of attractions at the Colonial will be handled by the Wang Center; I don’t know how accurate that is. And further to the comments above of May 10: notwithstanding what was listed in the Julius Cahn guide, I believe that the Colonial’s stage is 55 feet deep, not 45.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 7, 2011 at 12:03 am

The Colonial is closing this weekend with no future shows scheduled, due to a disagreement between Emerson College and Broadway in Boston. Emerson would like to bring in another promoter, but that has yet to happen. Read more in this Boston Globe article

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

The Colonial is included in the 1906 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The proscenium opening was 38 feet square, and the stage was 45 feet deep. Seating: Orchestra 618, sofas 39, 1st balcony 552, 2nd balcony 368, 12 boxes 60, 4 loges 16; total: 1,653 seats.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Emerson College did not renew Broadway in Boston’s lease for the Colonial Theatre, according to this Boston Globe article. It’s not clear what Emerson intends to produce or bring into the Colonial next season. Seems to me they already have their hands full with the Cutler Majestic and Paramount, so I find this decision puzzling.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Yes, this could easily have been the case. Sometimes in these busy arch. firms, one person designed the basic structure while another was responsible for the interior design. George Page might well have done substanial work on the Colonial project, under Blackall’s supervision.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2010 at 5:04 am

For what it’s worth, I’ve found a single source indicating that the architect of the Colonial Theatre was George N. Page, then working in Clarence Blackall’s office. In 1902, Page moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he opened the firm of Blackall & Page. Partner Blackall remained in Boston. The firm was listed in Cleveland directories as late as 1913, according to this web page from Cleveland’s Landmark Commission.

The source that attributes the design of the Colonial to Page is the trade journal The Ohio Architect, Engineer and Builder, in an article in the issue of September, 1911. Here is a quote:[quote]“The firm of George M. Page and J. W. C. Corbusier was formed in November, 1908, as the outgrowth of the firm of Blackall & Page.

“Both these gentlemen had their early training in the Mechanics' Institute at Rochester. N. Y., Mr. Page beginning his architectural work in Buffalo and going from there to New York City and thence to Boston where he became identified with that greatest of theater
experts, C. H. Blackall. While there he designed the famous Colonial Theater of Boston. He then came to Cleveland where his work has since become so well known.”[/quote]Given the fact that there is only this source for the attribution of the Colonial to Page, I’d be reluctant to remove the design from Blackall’s credits, but considering how busy Blackall’s firm probably was at the time, and the fact that he was willing to open a Cleveland office with Page in charge as his partner, only two years after the Colonial was built, it does seem plausible that Blackall could have let Page handle this important commission.

Bway on May 26, 2009 at 11:13 am

Here’s a street view of the Colonial Theater….

View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 7, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Key Brand Entertainment, which I think is a British company, has purchased the operating contract for the Colonial from Live Nation. Key Brand also took over the Charles Playhouse from LN.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm

In the old Boston Post of Dec. 21, 1950, theater critic Elliot Norton paid tribute to the Colonial on its 50th birthday. He states that show people like it because of its large stage, ample storage space, big scene dock, many dressing rooms and large, very nice star dressing rooms on the stage level at stage-left. His brief history of the theater up to 1950 does not mention movie shows, unfortunately.