Live entertainment returns to Saenger and Orpheum theaters

The two historic theaters are reopening after closing the doors last year.
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 7:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 7:34 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The doors at the Saenger Theatre have been closed for 22 months. Partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and before that, the collapse of the nearby Hard Rock Hotel site. But Thursday, July 15, the doors will reopen and the curtains will rise, as comedian Sebastian Maniscalco takes to the stage.

“The first show sold out in 12 minutes. We added a second show, and it sold out,” said General Manager at the Saenger David Skinner.

Staff is preparing for the big opening day. Skinner said there’s a lot of demand for live entertainment both from patrons and performers.

“The real challenge is having enough dates right now to be honest with you. Which is a good thing to have,” he said.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Skinner said repairs from damage from the Hard Rock collapse had to be made, in addition to general housekeeping. The roof, he said, is just about finished. The theatre has new air filtration systems, HEPA filters throughout, and increased cleaning protocols for all touch-surfaces like doors, seats, and in the restrooms.

“We’re about 90 percent finished right now. So the first few shows here the only thing we have to do is just adjust uh the rampart side because we don’t have uh ability to put vehicles down that street just yet,” said Skinner.

Parking is still an issue near the venue. He recommends guests arrive early to the shows for that reason. But the theatre is ready and its neighbor-- the Orpheum Theater-- isn’t far behind.

“We’re definitely kind of come back with a bang and celebrate 100 years of this amazingly historic venue,” said Events Manager Vaiva Urbaitis. The Orpheum’s fall season kicks off in September.

“Right now it’s mostly just sanitizing as much as we can during the shows and then doing deep cleans between the shows,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see staffing-wise just production.”

With some uncertainty around staffing for shows, she said for the most part, they feel ready to welcome guests.

“Honestly it feels amazing. I feel better than pre-COVID that’s for sure,” said Urbaitis.

And Skinner said it’s reminiscent of when the theater reopened in 2013.

“This almost echoes the way we felt,” he said. “We were closed for 10 years after Katrina and this right there with it.”

The Saenger Theatre requires all guests to wear face masks during events.

The Orpheum Theater will require face masks for guests who are not vaccinated.

Another iconic theater-- the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts is undergoing some repairs right now, but management expects it to reopen by the end of August 2021.

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