Built in 1928, the Auditorium Theatre has become the Greater Rochester area's home for large-scale Broadway musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, The Producers, Disney's THE LION KING and Wicked. In addition, The Auditorium Theatre hosts a variety of rock, classical, comedy, R&B, dance and children's shows. The Theatre is owned and operated by the Rochester Broadway Theatre League (RBTL).
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The Masonic Temple
Built at a cost of $2,225,000, the Masonic Temple of Rochester, NY laid its cornerstone in 1928, and was dedicated on May 24th, 1930 with much fanfare including a parade through the city. The building consisted of offices and several
ceremonial meeting rooms for the Masons, a fraternal organization, as well as one large 2,464 seat auditorium (now known as the
Auditorium Theatre). Sold to Saucke Brother's Construction in 1989, the building was converted to office spaces as well as large and small meeting rooms and banquet halls available for rent by the public, and re-named Auditorium Center.
The portion of the building containing the Auditorium Theatre was purchased by RBTL in 2003.
The Theatre Circuit
From the beginning, the Auditorium Theatre was the site of many touring productions, featuring some of the biggest names in the entertainment business.
Dramatic productions, musical concerts and comedy revues took place over the years.
In 1957, an all volunteer, not-for-profit group calling itself Rochester Broadway Theatre League was formed to bring such productions to Rochester.
The Theatre Organ
The Auditorium Theatre is the home of a magnificent Wurlitzer 4/23 (opus 1951) Theatre organ. The console rises from the orchestra pit, and the sound of 1,619 pipes, trumpets, clarinet, saxophone, drums, shimmering strings or marimbas emanates from the filigreed proscenium arch surrounding the main stage. The Rochester Theatre Organ Society (RTOS) was originally formed to rescue this organ from the luxurious downtown RKO Palace Theater, just before that 2916-seat 1928 movie house fell to the wrecking ball of urban renewal in the mid-1960s. Theatre organs were traditionally used to provide musical accompaniment to silent movies. RTOS stages several concert performances of the mighty Wurlitzer each year by many of the world's great organists. Although this Wurlitzer was not originally housed here, at one time there were as many as seven pipe organs in various locations within the Masonic Temple building.
Art Deco was a popular design movement from 1920 until 1939. The influence of this style is very apparent in the various light fixtures (all original to the building) utilized by the Auditorium Theatre.
With the possible exception of the entertainment on screen or on stage, the excitement of the historic theaters and movie palaces was expressed most eloquently in dramatically molded ornamental plaster walls and ceilings. Ceilings of the outer lobbies are fine examples of the plaster work common to this type of building.
So, what's up with the squirrels? One of the most puzzling secrets of the building centers on a fascination with squirrels. During construction of the building, the ornamental plasterer apparently felt the need to add a bit of whimsy by including several images of squirrels and acorns throughout. Squirrels appear above the building's front door, while bird, grapevine and acorn motifs can be found in the plaster work on the walls in some meeting rooms. But look closely — the most striking example is on the ceiling of the Auditorium. The plasterer has skillfully incorporated 64 squirrels into the symmetry of the massive ceiling.
In the summer of 2003, RBTL undertook a major renovation to the Auditorium that included the replacement of all of the theater's seats (now totaling 2,464), new carpeting throughout, upgrades to existing bathrooms, as well as the addition of new bathroom facilities on the lower level. At the same time, RBTL relocated its business offices and Box Office to the building.