500 W. Kilbourn Avenue, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Seats (approximate): 4100
On September 21, 1909, when the Milwaukee Auditorium was dedicated on the site of the earlier Industrial Exposition Building, Milwaukee had already established itself as a critical stop on the Industrial Revolution exposition circuit, and its immigrant populace exercised a strong commitment to arts, culture and politics. The new Auditorium was a multi-purpose facility serving Milwaukee's cultural and civic life as well as the budding convention industry. It featured a horseshoe-shaped arena with a proscenium stage, 3,000 permanent seats, a main floor that could accommodate most trade shows of the day, and several side halls. Historical uses included concerts, circuses, political rallies sports events. For decades the Milwaukee Auditorium boasted its own orchestra, and hosted touring concerts from such historic notables as John Phillip Sousa and Enrico Caruso to contemporary stars like Barry Manilow, Nirvana, Marilyn Manson and Prince. Sitting Presidents from Taft to Clinton delivered important policy addresses in the Auditorium, and it hosted even more candidates beginning with Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1912 gave a three-hour speech there after being shot in the chest. Returning doughboys were billeted in the Auditorium after World War I, and for six-day bicycle races in the '30s, it became a velodrome with a banked, wooden track. Structural and cosmetic improvements were made throughout the Auditorium's life, both before nd after a major 1978 renovation brought in modern heating and air conditioning, restored architectural details and overall physical upgrades. However, by the time it was acquired by the new Wisconsin Center District in 1995, the Auditorium's continued viability was questioned until a 20-day run of Riverdance, in 1999, shattered sales records and indicated that a market existed for a venue of its size. Subsequently, a decision was made to transform the building into a state-of-the-art concert, theatrical and assembly venue. The Auditorium closed for construction in 2001, and two years and $41.9 million later, it reopened as The Milwaukee Theatre on November 7, 2003. Effectively an all-new theater in the shell of the old building, the 4,100-seat Milwaukee Theatre features two sloped tiers of seats with superior sight lines and comfort, and built-in flexibility to create an "intimate" house of 2,500 seats. A signature feature is its spectacular, half-domed rotunda lobby, perfect for concessions, merchandising, receptions and assembly breaks. For patrons, The Milwaukee Theatre offers terrific elbow room, plenty of restrooms, and generous disability access. Back-of-house, the venue provides an amazing amount of rehearsal, dressing room and production space, a new stage and loading docks, new "house" sound and light systems, and other 21st-century technological and physical-plant improvements. Since opening, The Milwaukee Theatre has hosted a wide range of convention, corporate, religious and political assemblies as well as Broadway musicals and other entertainment ranging from the Radio City Rockettes to the Milwaukee premier of Disney's THE LION KING, concerts by such musical legends as David Bowie, Sting, Dolly Parton and the Boston Pops, and comedians Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, Ron White and Chris Tucker, among others.