Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, California
May 7, 1974
Section: Part II
New Role For Old Standby
By Dale Fetherling
ORANGE-The dust now settling on her plush seats and gilded walls
gathered there over more than 40 years of vaudeville and motion
But the whine of saws and the beat of hammers is signaling yet another
life for the old Orange Theatre.
Out with the popcorn machine, in with the bar. New carpeting and
upholstery in the '30s motif. A fresh coat of paint for the gargoyles
and lions which look out on the classic Art Deco-style marquee.
In all, a $250,000 face-lifting is under way that will transform the
cavernous movie palace, once a fixture of the Pantages vaudeville
circuit, into a legitimate theater, the Orange Playhouse.
The theater, at 172 N. Glassell St., just north of the Orange Plaza, is
said to be the last proscenium, or stage-type theater in Orange County.
Broadway plays with professional actors will begin in early June, with
the curtain first going up on the comedy, "Last of the Red Hot
Lovers." A TV or film star is to play the lead in each production.
Following for a 32-week stage season will be other comedies, then maybe
a concert or two for a change of pace, then a series of musicals.
Such variety will be nothing new to the old theater. Owner Norman Goodin
said the building, which opened in 1928, has housed over the years
vaudeville, films, stage shows, and even ballet.
Chris Ryan and Al Edwards, co-producers of the new shows, consider the
old movie house a rare find.
From the top row of its 1,050 seats, for example, an actor's unamplified
voice can clearly be heard, Ryan said. And, the decorations - many of
which are being retained - clearly bespeak the flavor of another era.
There's the band-painted mica chandelier hanging over the main
auditorium, the huge beveled plate-glass mirrors on the Stair landings,
the original pipe organ in the orchestra pit and the latticed organ
vents running the full height of the walls.
Some of the dark and dingy backrooms of the theater looked "like
something out of Edgar Allen Poe," Ryan said. Those are being
renovated now into actors' dressing rooms, and everywhere there are
workmen busily seeking to bring the heater up to level of comfort and
In so doing, they discover reminders of the years and the entertainment
Layer upon layer of bright, flowered wallpaper is exposed. An old
blueprint shows that the cubbyhole in one wall was to store ice for the
drinking fountain, long since replaced by a modern, electric one.
The walls of the old structure were discovered to be solid concrete, 18
Some of the finds suggest mankind has made some technical progress, at
least. For example, an old backstage dimmer switch, when pulled, erupted
in a shower of sparks. Also found was a Vitagraph disk, an ancient
phonograph record played to provide sound for the early movies.
In front of each of the theater's seats is a 4-inch hole in the floor,
part of a forced-air cooling system. Though bringing in fresh drafts,
the ducts also took out no small amount of debris.