Here’s a sneak peek inside Tacoma’s renovated Pantages Theater

If you’ve missed going to Tacoma’s iconic Pantages Theater, good news. It’s back with shows starting Thursday.

The $24.5 million renovation of the historic site at Ninth Street and Broadway started in May. The interior overhaul, paid for in a mix of public/private funding for the city-owned building, marks its centennial as a destination entertainment venue.

Asked what people will notice, Tacoma Arts Live Executive Director David Fischer was quick with an answer.

“The elegance. It is just stunningly beautiful,” he said. “It’s not gaudy or over the top; it is a very balanced elegance.”

That restored elegance required an “all new paint and plaster treatment that echoes back to 1918,” he told The News Tribune.

“Patrons will see significant elevated detail on the surfaces that reveal the incredible artistry and detail that otherwise has been monochromatic the last 40-some years,” Fischer said.

Add to that new carpeting, drapes and seating whose fabric complements the surrounding color scheme — and the seats now have cup holders.

And you might notice the improved acoustics, particularly for classical music.

The new center aisle takes the theater back to its original design, “and is an enormous advancement for safety should there be an emergency,” Fischer said, noting it cut the exit time in half.

While the paint team used historic photos for reference, it also conducted what Fischer described as “forensic studies going through 20-some layers of paint.”

Think of it as counting tree rings in a trunk to show age, but in this instance it was going by paint layers on a wall.

“They could tell us, ‘Here’s 1940. Here’s 1935,’” Fischer said.

The overall color palette was inspired by the theater’s stained glass canopy over the audience.

“All the colors are borrowed from that,” Fischer said.

The renovation crew also worked closely with the U.S. Department of the Interior, because the theater is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

“We’ve made sure everything meets their standards, and they are rigorous,” Fischer said.

The theater’s calendar will pick back up again 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 15) for “The Hip Hop Nutcracker with MC Kurtis Blow.” Then the Pantages will get into its holiday production season. A full schedule is at https://www.tacomaartslive.org/events

While more work remains (improvements to lower level restrooms and additional seismic upgrades, for example) Fischer is pleased with how far the renovation has come and where it’s headed.

“We’re taking this architectural gem and polishing it really for first time in 40 years,” he said.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell


The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts has renamed itself as Tacoma Arts Live.

The group oversees the Rialto and Pantages theaters, plus Theater on the Square and the Tacoma Armory.

In a news release, the group noted that the new name “emphasizes its broader role as a community connector and its focus on expanding access and equity for all. ...The new name signifies the start of a new act and speaks to a revitalized mission: energizing community through live performance.”