Inside Look At The New Howard Theatre In DC

7:26 AM, Apr 6, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Once it was a Washington icon, but more than 3 decades ago, the Howard Theatre was shut down and most thought it was done for good. A few dreamers, however, held on and now that Washington icon is about to make a miraculous comeback.

Local developer Chip Ellis decided to bring back the theater that had been boarded up for decades. He remembered, "No one really wanted to touch it with a 10 foot pole."

There was skepticism but six years and $29 million later, Ellis said, "We've been getting overwhelmingly that people are so grateful that we've done this."

Our Derek McGinty took a peek inside and found the new theater is almost nothing like the old one. After undergoing a $29 million renovation, it has movable tables and chairs, two full bars, and a kitchen large enough to handle 600 theater-goers.

Eighty-three-year-old Lloyd Avery, who used to work at the theater, had to come see it to believe it. "It's's fantastic," Avery said.

That sort of statement is just what architects Michael Marshall and Paolo Moya want to hear. The idea was to combine a high style restaurant with a theater in one venue. Waiters will serve people at their seats.

Very few people, however, will get to see "the Diana Ross" view of the theater -- on stage, front and center. Marjie Grace and Sandra Bears know that view. They are The Jewels and back in the day, they sang at Howard with James Brown.

"To play the Howard Theatre was like playing the Kennedy Center back then. It was a big thing!" shared Bears.

And so is getting it back. Bears told us, "To see it restored...that's wonderful. We've been waiting on this a long time." 

The Jewels will be there once again for the ribbon cutting next week and they're bringing something special for the occasion.

The theater's grand opening gala is set for next Thursday night.

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