No matter what city you visit, entertainment and the theatre are always popular amongst visitors. Whether that be a night watching Jersey Boys on New York’s historic Broadway, or a night at the opera in La Scala, it’s one of the world’s most prestigious and thrilling industries.
“Break a leg, ” is what the actors will hear as they tread the boards to dazzle audiences, but for most of us, we’d break a leg to just catch a glimpse of the top sopranos or our favourite show.
It’s an industry as old as time, and takes place in some of the most fabulous buildings in the world. But not all of them see heavily made up actors take to the stage any more, in fact in many cases we are now reading, playing, and even parking in some of these old gems.
Of course it’s difficult not to begin in 70AD at one of the world’s most famous amphitheatres, the Colosseum. Once used for gladiatorial contests and public displays, the building in the heart of Rome would hold up to 80, 000 spectators, to which now it’d expect to welcome around 20million tourists each year.
To this day it is still part of the fabric of Rome and will forever have its name right at the very beginning of theatreland.
Loew’s 175th Street Theatre
Of course the modern day theatre looks very different, and the Loews 175th Street Theatre in Manhattan is a fine example of this. Opened in 1930, the terra-cotta-faced theatre has been described by the New York Times as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco”, and it’s also much, much more.
It’s last showing was 2001:A Space Odyssey in 1969 before ironically moving the totally opposite way to science-fiction and becoming home to the United Christian Evangelistic Association, as well as a music venue that has welcomed Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and will welcome Lorde and Foster the People later in the year.
Another building which is no stranger to hosting big names is the London Hippodrome right in the very centre of London’s Theatreland. The Hippodrome stage has seen everyone from Ivor Novello, to Julia Andrews, to Frank Sinatra, to even 10tonne elephants during its early days as a circus.
Since then it’s been Talk of the Town – a nightclub that welcomed the Rat Pack, Tom Jones, and Stevie Wonder to name a few – before becoming today’s Hippodrome Casino. The building itself makes it one of the most unique places to enjoy live tournaments on the green velvet, with its stunning craftwork on the outside, and splendid interior that gives a nod to the greatness that has passed before but looking very much towards the future.
Unbelievably named only the second most beautiful book store in the world, El Ateneo is a truly stunning building, and has been maintained remarkably as a bookshop in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires.
Perhaps our favourite reimagined theatre, the building, which was built in 1919 still retains all its original features, allowing the theatre boxes to be perfect for a quiet read, and the stage the ideal location to look across the store and enjoy a cup of tea.
The Michigan Theatre
But from the truly stunning book store over to Detroit, the Michigan Theatre holds a different kind of beauty, and a rather haunting one.
Whilst the intricately painted ceilings remain, the stalls are no more, instead replaced by cars – yes cars. The theatre was originally one of the largest in Michigan, seating over 4, 000 people as they laughed along to The Marx Brothers but has since been gutted and now only sees office workers park their cars there.
Which is rather fitting as Henry Ford built his first automobile in that very location.