The newly-renovated Homburg Theatre is going to be the star of the show when the curtain goes up this weekend.
The media was given a glimpse of the $7-million project at the Confederation Centre of the Arts on Wednesday.
The public won’t have to wait long to see the changes with dance umbrella on the main stage this weekend, followed by Charlottetown Rural High School’s production of Grease next weekend.
The new theatre has been given a major facelift. It now boasts two new aisles, which will reduce the time it takes a patron to get to their seat, an expanded wheelchair section with companion seating, 1,110 brand new seats (still red in colour), new architectural lighting, new acoustical ceiling and acoustically insulated back-of-house and side walls and new theatrical lighting.
The public will also notice the two side walls have been rebuilt with embedded LED lighting inside the walls that can be controlled by technicians and used as part of the production.
And, the infamous acoustic clouds overhead are gone, replaced with new catwalks that allow staff for the first time ever to set up lighting overhead. Heck, with no access to the ceiling before changing a light bulb was literally a massive effort.
Now, the acoustic clouds weren’t trashed. The fiberglass, nacho-shaped pieces of equipment were given a new paint job and now hang in the upper foyer at the centre.
“The biggest dramatic change that customers will see when they come in here is that we’ve added two aisles to the orchestra level,’’ said Mike Cochrane, chief operating officer with the centre. “Before, we had two ways of getting out of the main stage theatre. Now, we have four. It’s a great addition. Now you don’t have to climb over everybody if you’re sitting in the middle.’’
Every seat in the Homburg Theatre has been replaced, ranging in width from 21 to 24 inches. They feature mahogany backs. Seats in the three balconies feature high backs and there’s more leg room.
“That was always a little bit of an audience comfort issue,’’ Cochrane said of the seats.
Putting in the two new aisles means seats had to come out but the centre simply put those lost seats up in the balcony.
Dean Constable, general manager of the centre, said the new catwalks give staff more options when it comes to lighting.
“We have a lot more lighting capabilities, a lot more ability to add, a lot of new effects that we’ll be able to achieve in a show,’’ Constable says. “We’ve also instituted a new lighting board of the highest technology. We’ll be able to program and control our lights in a lot of different ways.’’
There isn’t a bad seat in the house when it comes to sound now, Constable said, which wasn’t the case before.
“The acoustics are phenomenally improved in the theatre. Each seat has been designed so that sound waves reach each seat at the exact same rate. I think the experience you have now is far (better).’’
Jessie Inman, chief executive officer of the centre, described it as a whole new theatre.
“There has been a massive transformation here at the Confederation Centre. “It’s been a two-year process, so far. This was phase one of two phases.’’
Phase one included the new balconies and the theatre itself. The next phase involves revamping the stage and the two aging lifts under the stage.
Inman said the next phase will begin “once we have the money’’.
The centre’s CEO added that almost all the construction, acoustic, engineering and electrical work was done by Island companies.
“The past four months have been major,’’ Inman said, noting that about 30 workers have been working inside the theatre every day since Jan. 1.
The Homburg Theatre, which had been showing its age, now looks practically brand new.
“It’s certainly one of the largest renovations (in the centre’s 50-year history).’’
The newly renovated Homburg Theatre was unveiled to the media today in Charlottetown.
©Guardian photo by Wayne Thibodeau