New York, NY 10023
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: 1,2,3 to 72nd St
Written by: Emily Niewendorp
Beacon Theater’s near-perfect acoustics, grandiose auditorium and extravagant Art Deco designs place it in the upper echelon of New York City music venues.
Its recent restoration returned the worn-down structure into a feast for the eyes and heart, an affect that was similarly received by the theater’s original attendees as well—those enduring the Great Depression. The auditorium is a medley of Greek, Roman, Renaissance, Rococo and Moorish styles, displayed in flat gold- painted ornaments and sculptures. A double balcony with red rows of seating and the vibrant colors on the proscenium, combine with riveting stage performances and events to create an unforgettable experience.
The most famous bands have played Beacon Theater over the years: the Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Radiohead and Queen. Since 1989, the Allman Brothers have performed 173 shows at the Beacon. For many years they played each spring in a weekend event that became known as “The Beacon Run.”
Other types of events are also popular at the Beacon; Bill Clinton celebrated his 60th birthday at the venue with a private Rolling Stones concert, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama chose the Beacon Theatre as the site of his teaching classes in August of 1999.
The Beacon is known as the “older sister” to Radio City Music Hall, opened a few years beforehand in 1929 by the same man, Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, widely known as a theatrical impresario. He considered Beacon a masterpiece of its time with stylish Art Deco designs by Walter Ahlschlager, and elegant marble entryways. Roxy’s vision of an international entertainment and cultural events destination has awed crowds through the decades, spanning both silent film/vaudeville and talking picture eras.
The venue’s 2008 restoration revealed a surprise: two architectural firms, each with their own set of plans, designed the theater in 1929. The second set of plans was applied when Warner Bros. took over the lease and construction of the theater, before the building was ever completed. In order to honor the building’s preservation as a national landmark as of 1979, the company overseeing the restoration painstakingly studied both sets of original plans, as well as black and white photos, in order to restore the space to its original designs and image that are so beautifully presented today.