SPECIAL EVENT : Your grandfather & grandson’s Granada – Santa Barbara’s arts and entertainment mecca reopens its long-shut doors

February 29, 2008 12:42 PM

“This will not be the Granada you remember.”

Marketing Director Vince Coronado’s words are confident. For decades, the Granada Theatre has been the theater with an identity problem — stuck halfway between the 1920s and 1980s, reshaped, abused and partially used. But even those who might still be around to recall its early years will be in for a surprise when the remodeled, refurbished and refitted Granada parts its doors Thursday for its gala opening.
Everything good about the Granada of old has remained or been resurrected, from the Spanish mural that stretches high above the stage to the original reverse illumination chandelier that came out of storage and was returned to its original location in the center of the theater. Everything bad, outdated or unworkable has been replaced, including 21st century acoustic technology, separate entry access for those with special needs and additional restroom stalls for female patrons.
Of course, that will be secondary Thursday night when all eyes will be on the main attraction. A night of music, dance and song will help reintroduce Santa Barbara to the local companies that now have a shared home. To honor the Granada’s Spanish theme — granada means pomegranate, by the way — the evening will indulge in all things España.

In October, Granada Theatre Executive Director Peter Frische, far left, gave a tour to Granada and Santa Barbara Symphony officials, including conductor Nir Kabaretti, second from left. In July, EverGreene Painting Studios was brought in from New York to help during the final stages of reconstruction. Below, EverGreene artist Jim Ellis applies thin sheets of gold leaf to decorative shields.

Conductor Nir Kabaretti will lead the Santa Barbara Symphony in selections from Rimsky-Korsakov and de Falla in the first half, featuring Warren Jones on piano and Nina Bodnar on violin. Also calling the Granada home, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, backed by the Symphony will perform selections from Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”
The second half opens with a special appearance by relative newcomers Flamenco Ballet Pablo Pizano. Then with the Symphony relocated down into the pit, the State Street Ballet, Opera Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Choral Society will collaborate on a suite of excerpts from “Carmen.”
State Street Ballet director Rodney Gustafson compares these new collaborations to those that happen in places such as the Lincoln Center. “Opera usually has dancing within it,” he says, “but we were limited at the Lobero.” Now that won’t be a problem.
“Having a residence like the Granada will really help the profile of the company,” Gustafson says, adding the hardest audience to win over is always the home crowd. Maybe not so, as the company’s 15th anniversary will be spent in these new digs.
For Kabaretti, the sound of the Granada already has him rethinking programs.
“At the Arlington, we had to be aware of the acoustics,” he says. “There were certain composers we didn’t even program.” The Symphony no longer has to err on the side of pure volume to reach the far seats. “Next year we are planning more intimate pieces.” Some very delicate Mozart is on his mind.
Though Kabaretti leaves the Arlington with fond memories, he also remembers the lack of space backstage. There were nights, he recalls, when Choral Society members had to wait outside in the cold, waiting to go on. At the Granada, that problem no longer exists.

Jed Ellis of Evergreene brushes the gold plating off of a piece that will be displayed in the newly renovated Granada.
Robby Barthelmess/News-Press

In fact, the backstage area has been just as carefully planned and thought out as the public area. In a guided tour during construction a couple weeks ago, Granada Executive Director Peter Frisch pointed out the tiny corridor that used to be the Granada basement. The rest, he says, was dirt.
Now companies can indulge in 10 dressing rooms, all with showers and sinks; two large make-up rooms for choruses and ensembles (altogether a total of 48 make-up stations); sprung-board and sound-proof rehearsal rooms for dancers and musicians; a laundry room; a carpentry room for set maintenance; a wardrobe room; and private rooms for featured artists and conductors. For conductors and performers: brand new Kawai upright pianos for rehearsals. For the main stage: a Steinway grand that, at this time of of writing, was on its way from New York.
Helping move the Steinway is the above-mentioned hydraulic orchestra pit. At its basement level, the pit backs onto a storage area, where the heavy instruments will remain until needed. At its second level, the pit operates as its name suggests, flush with an area underneath the stage that accommodates 54 players — the largest of its kind between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, according to Frisch. At its top level, the pit is flush with the audience, allowing four rows, or 70 seats, to be added to the floor.
On regular days, pedestrians will be able to look into the front windows of the Granada and see all the way to the stage, part of an intentional design to make the Granada feel like it belongs to all of Santa Barbara, according to Frisch.
“It was a conscious decision: let’s do this right,” he says, adding he hopes the Granada will be the main entertainment theater on State Street for the next 100 years. There was no way they were going to come back in 30 years, he says, and add things. As costs started to rise after initial estimates, Frisch said he kept in mind the idea of a perfect arts environment. That included the restoration of a marquee that replicates the original 1924 design and bringing back a vertical neon blade that used to hang down the side of the building.
Opening night Thursday will close off a block of State Street to traffic, apart from vintage cars delivering flappers and their dates (actually members of State Street Ballet). Tickets range from $75 to $500, but March 9 features a free open house for the public to see what Frisch says is, for some builders working on the project, a cornerstone in their career. But while on a tour, as construction continued and not even the ground floor seats had been set in place, Frisch was asked how confident he felt in his deadline. As usual, he smiled. In his previous incarnation as a director, he knows all about deadlines and opening nights.
“If we have seats, lights and a stage, we’ll be opening.”

Where: Granada Theatre, 1216 State St.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Cost: $75, $250, $500
Information: 899-2222, www.granadasb.org

Post-Gala galvanizing
So the Granada Gala eluded your schedule/wallet/tastes. Don’t worry, plenty more events are in store on the upcoming calendar. More is soon to fill out the schedule, but here’s what is already available for purchase:
‘A Little Night Conversation with Stephen Sondheim & Frank Rich’: Legendary theatrical composer Stephen Sondheim will share the stage with New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich for what should be an insightful discussion. March 8. $22 to $68
Open house: Can’t get seats? This is your chance to see the new building. March 9. Free
Natalie Cole: The soul, R&B and jazz singer opens the Granada’s Preview Season with selections from her covers album “Leavin.’ ” March 14. $65 to $140
‘In The Mood: A 1940’s Musical Revue’: The music of the 1940s takes audiences for a trip back in time. March 18, 19. $30 to $55
NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me’: Sit in on a live recording of NPR’s nationally broadcast quiz program. March 27. $20 to
America: Country-tinged rock, pop, and folk from the band that brought us “A Horse with No Name.” April 6. $50 to $70
La La La Human Steps: Award-winning choreographer Édouard Lock guides nine dancers and four musicians in a display of technique, structure and speed. April 8. $20 to $45
Mandy Patinkin: Tony and Emmy Award-winning Patinkin sings popular standards from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Harry Chapin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.April 11. $45 to $100
Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette: Grammy Award-winning vocalist McFerrin joins jazz veteran Corea, who boasts a four-decade career and nearly 50 Grammy nominations, and drumming legend DeJohnette, who is widely regarded as one of his genres greats. April 15. $22 to $68
Break! The Urban Funk Spectacular: Dance ensemble combine breathtaking movements set to live DJs and master percussionists. April 25. $30 to $55
The Fresh Aire Music of Mannheim Steamroller: Composer Chip Davis leads his ever-evolving pop classical group through an evening of multimedia and choreographed lighting. April 30. $47 to $57
Salvatore Licitra, tenor: This commanding vocalist continues to perform an impressive repertory that includes the works of Verdi, Puccini and more. Licitra will be joined by pianist Warren Jones, who is noted for his technique and accompaniment. May 8. $22 to $58
Diavolo: Los Angeles based dance company melds body and machine with use of oversized contraptions, structures, doors, stairways and more. May 10. $30 to $55
Marilyn Horne and Barbara Cook: Mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne and Broadway darling Barbara Cook will perform what should be a dynamic duet performance. May 17. $22 to $68
22nd Annual Young Soloists Showcase: A tradition for 22 years, this annual concert features gifted young musicians who have earned the honor of appearing with a professional orchestra. May 18. $25
Mark Morris Dance Group: The Group brings the works of its namesake to reveal the depth of Morris’ talents in a display of creativity and masterful modern dance. May 20. $20 to $45
‘Carmina Burana’: The opening night selection was just a tease. Join the Santa Barbara Ballet Company for William Soleau’s choreographed version of the classic Orff opera, featuring the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Santa Barbara Choral Society. May 31, June 1. $20 to $50
–Ted Mills

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

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