Kristin Chenoweth Draws Big Crowd at Saenger Theatre Re-Opening Gala


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A week after its official re-opening, New Orleans historic Saenger Theatre threw a celebration gala headlined by Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. The October 5th show was touted as Chenoweth's New Orleans debut.

The star displayed her incredible vocal range with performances of well-known Broadway favorites such as Over the Rainbow, My Fair Lady, and The Phantom of the Opera. She was accompanied by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of her own conductor, Kevin Stites.

Chenoweth usually brings along a trio of singers/dancers to performances such as this, and Saturday night she added a few surprise guests from Louisiana to that mix. The almost 2-1/2 hour long show was a huge hit, with some reviewers dubbing her an "honorary New Orlean" and suggesting that the star be invited to perform at the city's tricentennial celebration in 2018.

The Saenger Theatre, a New Orleans landmark, opened in 1927. Performances originally included silent movies and stage plays, with music from the theater's orchestra.

Over the years, the theater was bought and sold several times, and eventually landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The following year, it was purchased by a group of investors who proceeded to spend an additional $3 million to renovate it into a performing arts center. It flourished until 2005, when it suffered severe water damage during Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday's re-opening gala celebrated the conclusion of a $53 million restoration effort. The Saenger was originally designed and built to resemble an Italian Baroque courtyard, and the recent renovation aimed to restore it to that atmospheric grandeur.

The theater officially re-opened on September 27th, with a sold-out three night performance by comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

The Saenger plans to host a variety of private and public events. Its Broadway in New Orleans series kicks off on October 15th with a two-week run of The Book of Mormon.

While its too early to judge the success of the restored Saenger, for now the city seems to be enthusiastically embracing the theater's re-opening as a symbol of continued post-Katrina recovery.

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