Preview audiences to Jane Eyre since Nov. 9 have been getting an eyeful in her Broadway home, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
The 1926 theatre underwent an interior design renovation that brings out the detail and warmth in the 1,044-seat venue, operated by the Nederlander Organization. The summer re-do was timed to be ready for the new musical, Jane Eyre, which officially opens Dec. 10.
The gold-leaf and bronze-colored accents in the theatre glow with a burnished quality that designer Roger Morgan, who oversaw the renovation, likes to call "mellow." The gold-leaf (which is technically bronze) seems to shimmer, quietly, above the auditorium and balcony.
The theatre opened in 1926 as the Mansfield Theatre, another house built by the construction tycoons, the Chanin Brothers, according to Louis Botto's book, "At This Theatre," and designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp. The color scheme was reported at the time to be old rose, gold and light tan.
Morgan, whose Sachs Morgan Studio design firm handled renovations of Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and the Los Angeles Pantages Theatre, told Playbill On-Line he wanted to evoke the era of the Atkinson, but remind theatregoers that they were in a 70-year-old theatre. "I like to evoke the time in which the theatre was developed," said Morgan. "I like to evoke the colorings that were popular then. I like to organize the coloring in ways that I think are classical, in that they relate to that period."
Instead of adding colors that were "bright and sassy," Morgan said, "we wanted to experience it like a theatre that was 70 years old...so it shows the respectable signs of age."
To do this, a transparent color glaze was put over the newly painted surfaces and rubbed off, "so it sticks in the crevices," he said. "Some people call it that aging, or if it's furniture they call it antiquing."
In the back of the theatre, stenciling that evoked the period was applied in lieu of fabric accent pieces. Along the stairs to the balcony and concession area, the original cast iron railings were cleaned and repaired. Throughout the house — and especially around the proscenium frame — a designer has to be especially careful to not apply colors that are too bright and focus-pulling, Morgan said. "It's wonderful to have theatre be appealing when the audience comes in," he explained, "but when it's time for the show to begin, the theatre has to take a big step back."
Also addressed in the three-month renovation between July and September 2000:
• The theatre's original chandelier, in storage for 30 years, was restored, raised and relighted above the auditorium.
• New seats have been installed and the original iron end plates on the aisles have been attached and relighted.
• Murals throughout the house have been cleaned, and new carpets and drapes have been installed.
• The rest rooms, box office lobby and entrance lobby have also been restored.
In the 1950s, the Mansfield was used as a TV playhouse. In 1960 it returned to legit use under the name of then recently retired New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson; reportedly, it was the world's first theatre to be named for a critic. The Walter Kerr (formerly the Ritz) was later named for the post-Atkinson Times critic.
For more information about Sachs Morgan Studio, visit the website at www.sachsmorganstudio.com.