Photos by richard gayle photography
Originally a vaudeville house, this 1928 venue stands among the nation’s finest in opulence, extensive gilt, quality of detailing and is Boston’s only Thomas Lamb theatre. After closing in 1991, the project became trapped in an economic vise grip suffered by many historic performing arts venues. M+J worked with the owner to fully restore and carefully renovate this venue, in order to host Broadway style entertainment, among othersBroadway In Boston, Landlord of the Charles Playhouse in the theater district of Boston, retained Martinez+Johnson for improvements to this venue. Home to Blue Man Group and Shear Madness, the Playhouse is a staple in the Boston arts community, and is listed as an exterior landmark on the National Register of Historical Places.
The Charles Playhouse was originally built in 1839 as the Fifth Universalist Church by Asher Benjamin, a heralded “father” of Colonial American architecture. Over time, the building served as a religious temple, speakeasy, jazz club, casino, and function hall, but in the 1950s was shut down due to lack of patronage in the post-war years. Numerous attempts to resurrect the once-lively hall proved unsuccessful, until 1995, when Broadway In Boston purchased Charles Playhouse as the new home for Blue Man Group.
M+J’s scope of work included renovating both the second floor 499 seat theater for Blue Man Group and the 200 seat cabaret for Shear Madness. Both venues were made easily accessible with the installation of two lifts, wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, and a custom railing designed to enhance the theatrical experience while still providing safety. The lounge, lobby, and restrooms were demolished and remodeled with emphasis on space and new technology. The lobby’s ceilings were raised three feet, new lighting, sound systems, LCD screens, and equipment was added, and the main entry vestibule refreshed, including new double doors opening into the lounge area. The “Lounge-U-Lum” was remodeled as an introduction to the Blue Man Group show, incorporating tactile experiences, electronic instrumentation, and sophisticated animation, all for the audience to enjoy before and after the show. New energy efficient ADA compliant restrooms replaced small water closets, with the Design Team focusing on utilizing the compact space of the venue to its maximum potential.
In order to minimize show down-time and loss of ticket sales, the rehabilitation and redesign process was focused into 18 weeks, with a scheduled 2.5-week dark period for construction. Not a single show was missed, with tickets presold for performances after the reopening.