Quite a few local theater companies may turn green with envy when they see Salt Lake Community College's newly refurbished Grand Theatre at the school's South City Campus - and not just because the predominant color scheme is hunter green.
All of the rearranging of the furniture (brand new seats), along with new drapes and newly painted walls, fits right in with the Grand Theatre's opening musical for its 1994-95 season - "Mame."One of irrepressible Auntie Mame's claims to fame is the way she redecorates her Manhattan apartment from top to bottom at the drop of a whim.
So SLCC is giving the beloved former South High School auditorium its own refreshing new look.
The first thing patrons will notice when they settle into the comfortable new American Desk seats is . . . all that leg room! SLCC Arts Coordinator Pat Davis (who also stars in "Mame") has reduced the hall's seating from 1,700 to 1,140. There's more leg room in the downstairs seating than you'd find in the first-class sections of most airplanes.
And the new seats, considerably wider than the old ones, are also contoured for additional comfort. All of the older seats were given away, free of charge, to other theaters in the area. As part of the theater's fund-raising campaign, patrons may purchase new seats for $225 each (two for $500). Donors can have a plaque installed on the armrest with either their own names or whomever they wish to honor.
By reconfiguring the number of rows and realigning them for improved sightlines, the $400,000 project will also provide better access for those in wheelchairs. There are four special boxes - two near the front and two at the rear - each of which have room for two wheelchairs and adjacent regular theater seats for the handicapped patrons' companions.
The new handicapped areas in the front also allowed the creation of wide, unobstructed aisles for direct access to the two side exits.
Up in the balcony, the terraced rows could not be changed without causing structural damage to the building, but the wider seating will permit more lateral comfort, and the access aisles have been widened slightly, with new bannisters running down the center of each aisle for more safety.
The temporary runway installed in front of the stage a couple of years ago for "Hello, Dolly!" has been replaced by a larger, sturdier permanent runway, which doubles as an orchestra pit.
Repainting of the walls, from a drab, grayish hue to dark green, has accented the polished oak of the hall's ornate doorways and railings.
The renovations are more than just a mere cosmetic touch-up. With all new seating, drapes and decor, the Grand Theatre truly lives up to its name.
- MAME DENNIS is one of the most joyously flamboyant characters in theater history, with her dear fair-weather friend, Vera Charles, close behind.
The two first surfaced in Patrick Dennis' best-selling novel, "Auntie Mame," in the mid-1950s, after which it soon became both a long-run Broadway comedy (1956) and a major feature film (1958), both starring Rosalind Russell. Then it was adapted into a musical - followed by another long run on Broadway (1966, starring Angela Lansbury) and yet another film version (1974, starring Lucille Ball).
For the Grand Theatre's production, Pat Davis and Equity actress Margaret Crowell, both familiar names to local theatergoers, will tackle the roles of the madcap bohemian Mame Dennis and her loopy friend, Vera Charles.
Also in the cast are James A. Dale as Beuregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, the Southern gentleman who woos Auntie Mame (and whose presence sets the stage for the show-stopping "Mame" at his Peckerwood plantation), and Linda Moore as Agnes Gooch, Mame's secretary.
Scott Fetzer and Sterling Hanks will play the younger and older Patrick Dennis - the young lad sent to live with Mame after his father (her brother) dies. Glen Slight and Joan Mullaney are the stuffy Upsons, with Chellie Leishman as their daughter, Pegeen.
The show is being directed by Bryan Bowles, with Ken Plain as musical director, Marilyn May Montgomery as choreographer and Clif A. Davis as set designer.
Following the opening on Friday, Sept. 9, "Mame" will continue Mondays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through Sept. 24, with one matinee at 2 p.m. on Sept. 24. All seats are reserved and admission ranges from $2 to $10. For reservations, call the box office at 957-3322. The Grand Theatre is located at 1575 S. State. Ample free parking is available on the east side of the school.