Encore: A year after reopening, Howard Theatre brings glitz, glam back to Shaw
By Christine Smitz | Published by districtchronicles.com
July 2, 2013
The statue of the legendary Duke Ellington stands perched on the roof, like a musical gargoyle protecting all that is divinely creative inside the renovated Howard Theater. He seems to be ushering in only the greatest of the great performers with his sailing notes, leading a symphony through several blocks at Florida Avenue and Chuck Brown Way.
The archway of its entrance is bold, commemorated by Gatsby architecture, both classic and modern at the same time, rich in every façade of construction. Inside, a velvety blue glow emanates from the theater’s circular stage where musical giants have graced eager and awaiting audiences since 1910. The theater-style seats are accompanied with tables for the bevy of refreshments from the bar.
What was once called the “Greatest Negro Theater in the World” has been reborn, but its audiences are diverse, mirroring the changing demographics of the former.
Welcome to Howard Theater. Celebrating its 1-year anniversary, the Howard was home to voices like Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye the stage now transcends to Wale, Brian McKnight, gospel choirs and bevies of local artists and music and entertainment fans.
“We were kids, you know, and the performers were all in their 20s,” said Barbara J. Williams, a mental health social worker. “… We snuck in there to see them – James Brown, the Temptations, the Cadillacs, Smoky Robinson. All of the old timers because I’m from the 60s and we loved our music.”