Music Box Theatre maps out the future with a nod to the past

Big room, long history: the interior of the Music Box Theatre
Big room, long history: the interior of the Music Box Theatre

The Music Box Theatre opened as the Loring Theater 90 years ago, primarily as a Vaudeville and movie house. In recent years it's been best known locally as the home of the indestructible comedy Triple Espresso. Now, in a project led by local director and producer Steve Barberio, it could well become a major new local venue for theater, music, and movies.

Barberio is overseeing the transition of the Music Box into a new incarnation of the Loring Theater, a venue with a liquor license and wide-open plans for booking musicians, stage shows, and movies (the place has a fully functioning set-up, and is showing films this month).

I took a tour of the place yesterday, and was wowed by the possibilities. It's a big room (a bit more than 400 seats), but the theater itself is in nice shape. In the coming months the venue should see some improvements (the backstage area and loading facilities need a good deal of work), but a trip through the building's lower levels revealed stairways leading to nowhere, forbidding old boilers, and a generally enjoyable spooky, old-building feel.

Speaking of which, the joint is going to be opened up for The Haunted Theater from October 21-31; audiences will be led through the eerie old place, with lights and effects providing a Halloween experience that combines history with a case of the shivers.

Here's an example of the general ambiance downstairs:

Downstairs at the Music Box: Bwahaha
Downstairs at the Music Box: Bwahaha
Upcoming shows also include the Allison Moore comedy The Love Knot, a film noir double-feature of Chinatown and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, and the Blue Thursdays music series.

Also in the works is a restoration of the old Loring Theater marquee, and a return to the theater's birth name. That marquee waits downstairs at the Music Box to be refitted and rewired. When it's done, it should become a visual landmark on Nicollet Ave. for years to come.

Finally, here's a look at the Loring Theater many years ago:

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