Richard Rodgers Restoration: Exhuming a Lost Proscenium

EverGreene is appearing on Broadway…once again . We’re providing restoration and conservation services for the Nederlander Organization on the Richard Rodgers Theater, 226 West 46th Street in Times Square. The Theater is distinguished as housing the most number of Tony-award winning best Musical or Play recipients.  Recent productions include Private Lives, Seussical, Footloose, Chicago, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

It’s a beautiful theater, but there is a lot of work to accomplish in a very short time frame. We have about six weeks to completely re-paint and restore just about every square inch of the theater. We’d like to share several aspects of this restoration project that we’ve found particularly exciting…

Investigative Study

In 2012, EverGreene conservators completed a conditions survey and investigative study. They discovered that the current post-historic heavy, grayish color palette bears scant relation to the theater’s original elegant Adamesque-style[1]. When paint samples were analyzed under microscope in our conservation lab, it we discovered more than 20 layers of paint, indicating that the theater had been repainted multiple times.

Richard Rodgers Proscenium

The Proscenium

When you look at the picture above carefully, you’ll see what our conservators noticed – there’s a discrepancy between the decoration on the proscenium and the sound board. Due to its anachronistic features, we guessed that the proscenium piece with the over-sized gilded leaves had been added as a part of a redecoration in the 40’s. We had a hunch that the original proscenium design harmonized with the surrounding ornamentation. So, we cut a test hole from the plaster and discovered that the original proscenium…mostly intact!

We have to remove the outer proscenium very carefully as to not damage the original one underneath, and we are discovering details that have been lost for almost 70 years including sculptural figures and gilded bas-relief. Our designers are currently recreating those elements in EverGreene’s plaster studio.

Empty Panels 

Stenciling and Murals

Another aspect of the interior that had been lost was the floral stenciling that once lined the panels along the sides of the auditorium. Since the original fabric patterns are lost, the only clues we have are some remnant stenciling found underneath the grey paint, and a couple of historic, archival photographs. From that information, our artists created a design that is sympathetic to the original historic stenciling. Then our mural studio digitally replicated the design which will be printed on canvas, and installed in just a few weeks.

When the Richard Rogers reopens in late August with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in Romeo and Juliet theater-goers will also be treated to a restored and refreshed Theater.

 [1] Adamesque style refers to an 18th century neoclassical style practiced by three brothers from Scotland, known as the Adams Brothers. A revival of the style known for its light, airy feel and Victorian/Edwardian influences was very popular with the expanding middle classes from 1880 to 1920.