Monday, March 10, 2008

Thousands show for Granada open house


After standing in a line that snaked down State Street and around the corner for much of yesterday afternoon, local residents stepped through the doors of the Granada Theatre and got a free, behind-the-scenes glimpse of its massive renovation.
An estimated 8,000 people took advantage of the open house, theater officials said, and many seemed blown away by the scale and quality of the makeover.

“I think the whole thing is impressive,” local resident Barbara Wagner said. “It’s so first-rate.”
Wagner and her husband, Marty Scharlemann, stood in line for half an hour before their turn to tour the theatre and they took their time marveling at everything from the new bathrooms to the dressing rooms and rehearsal space located in the previously nonexistent subterranean level.
“It doesn’t look like they cut any corners,” Scharlemann said.
As Santa Barbara residents for the past 35 years, the couple said they had attended shows at the Granada prior to the renovation efforts.
“It was pretty rundown,” Wagner said. “…I never thought it was raunchy, but compared to this, it was.”
Dozens of people drifted backstage to gaze up at the towering fly loft as a theater official demonstrated how scenery and lights are moved up and down with a series of thick ropes.
Onstage, dancers with State Street Ballet twirled expertly as hundreds watched on from the seats and a smaller contingent watched from the wings. Students from the Granada Music and Arts Conservatory, as well as the Westmont College Quintet and Octet, also took to the stage during the noon to 6 p.m. open house.
Steve Pliha, a 40-year resident of Santa Barbara, said he has already purchased tickets for performances in the recently reopened theatre. He lauded the restoration of the historic chandelier, describing his memories of it being sealed from sight.
“When they closed it up to make two theaters upstairs, I thought it was a shame,” he said, calling it one of the most dramatic elements of the theatre.
“I remember that chandelier very vividly,” he added.
While many tour participants pointed out particular features that caught their eye, such as the chandelier or the grand staircases leading to the upper balcony, others seemed amazed by the overall change from the theatre’s previous appearance.
“It’s like night and day,” local resident Dorothy Semmel said.
Her husband, Mel, said the acoustics and improved sightlines impressed him, as well as the retouching of historic elements.
“I think it’s done very tastefully,” he said. “The architect has done an incredible job.”
Even as hundreds of local residents waited patiently in line as fire officials monitored the amount of people entering the 1,500-seat theatre, others relaxed and enjoyed live bands playing on a stage set up outside the entrance.
In addition to passing out information on future shows at the Granada, volunteers also handed out free coloring books to kids and offered commemorative grand opening posters for sale.
Although several members of the public said they had missed out on the opening night gala on Thursday, they said they planned to purchase tickets for upcoming events. Dozens of performances are already set for the next few months and more information is available at

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