Monday, December 9, 2013
A Change for Robinson Center Music Hall.
I suppose I wasn’t really dreaming big, but to a young child growing up in 1970s Little Rock, it was the big time. Sure, when rock stars came to town, they went to Barton Coliseum… but when good music was involved or theater came in, the best seats in the house were on the floor of the august structure.
After the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra made the auditorium its permanent home in 1966, changes were made. An extensive renovation in 1973 took out the second performance space in favor of an underground parking deck, and that year the facility was officially renamed Robinson Center Music Hall.
My mom and I had several trips to Robinson over the years. I recall from my earliest days her tales of playing on that stage (Mom was a saxophonist) – and how somehow during the performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, the art deco light fixtures overhead spun about. I had my first performance there as a young ballet student when I wasn’t much older than Hunter – a performance I best remember because it called for a cartwheel and I never managed to master a single cartwheel in my life.
However, what was magic to a teenager can’t be all that wonderful to a touring group. I’ve been lucky enough to see so many shows brought in by Celebrity Attractions over the years – Beauty and the Beast, The Producers, Miss Saigon, Rent, Stomp, Mama Mia, you name it. I’ve seen 1964 as The Beatles, the Russian Ballet’s Nutcracker, even the Beach Boys on that stage. Knowing the tight quarters backstage, I’ve been surprised that every act’s been able to pull it off.
But there are other shows I’d like to see – like The Lion King. It can’t come here right now – because there’s just no way to get those sets in or handle that sort of production staff size. The lone loading dock faces out onto Broadway… and to get one of those big 18 wheelers for the production in there, police have to shut down the street.
There’s also the acoustic resonance inside. Music fans, you should be nodding your heads. Up front and center, the sound’s great – but there are many echoing nooks and crannies in the big hall that cause dissonance.
I love the history behind Robinson, and I love its epic columns and glorious steps out front. But I also know what it’s like to stand in line for one of the limited restrooms during an intermission – and the limited foot traffic pattern that requires planning ahead. If you’ve been to a weeknight performance and stood in the crowd waiting to go down the one escalator from the balcony, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The renovations won’t change how I feel about Robinson… and maybe one day I’ll figure out someway to be back on that stage myself. Doing what, I have no idea, but hey – everyone hopes for a moment in the spotlight.
If you'd like more information about the plan, check out this site.