Siouxland Proud: Looking back on Orpheum Theatre restoration - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Siouxland Proud: Looking back on Orpheum Theatre restoration

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

The Orpheum Theatre is the crown jewel of downtown Sioux City, but it wasn't always the gem we know it as today.

Opened in 1927, the Orpheum Theatre was the largest of its kind in Iowa... and people marveled at its beauty, both young and old. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I can remember coming here with my parents." During the Depression, Irving Jensen can remember elaborate stage shows. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "They'd come in for a week in those days." And, movies on the silver screen.

That changed in 1992, when the theatre closed after 65-years in operation. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I was kinda devastated. When they closed the stage, it made me feel bad because I felt that was the end of an era in Sioux City." But, Jensen, and a handful of others, wanted the show to go on. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "This was the largest ever built in the state of Iowa... as a stage theatre."

But, not everyone shared Jensen's enthusiasm. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I had two of three people who told me it would never work. That I shouldn't waste my time with it."

Spurred by Ray Shepardson, a theatre restoration specialist, plans were made and public fundraising began. But, Jensen said one thing was missing. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I'm a road-building contractor. my skills were good for rebuilding the theatre, and trying to keep it clean and keep it up. But, I am not a showman. Dave is a showman." Dave is Dave Bernstein, founder of "Saturday In The Park." Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "He had lots of good ideas, and knew how to bring productions to this community."

In September of 2001, the stage was ready for new shows, and the theatre re-opened. And, like the original opening, crowds couldn't contain their enthusiasm.

Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I've been out there when the school kids come through. One time I was out there, and one little boy said to a little girl, 'a king used to live here.'"

For this "crown jewel" of Sioux City, some of its "gems" date back 85-years. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "As you come through the lobby, everything you see is original." From floor to ceiling. Jensen said workers found scraps of the original carpet. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "So, we had it copied."

The lobby chandeliers are made from Austrian crystal. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "Each chandelier is insured for more than most people's houses."

Then there are the things you don't see. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I like the big blower." It's three floors beneath the street. Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "Where the is circulated for the theatre. And, that's original to the theatre.

Backstage is a who's who of the entertainment industry. Voice of: Joe Mahaney, Orpheum Theatre said, "Jewel, She loved the Orpheum so much she kissed the wall." Voice of: Joe Mahaney, Orpheum Theatre said "That silly gentleman Ron White. Why he wrote 'Live Wrong', I'll never know." Voice of: Joe Mahaney, Orpheum Theatre said "The lovely Amy Grant." Voice of: Joe Mahaney, Orpheum Theatre said "The President of the United States, Barack Obama."

So, what's Jensen's favorite? Irving Jensen, Jr., Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project President said, "I think I have more than one. I like the whole theatre." And, so do countless concertgoers for nearly a century.

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