BEST CONCERT VENUE - 2006
Walker Performing Arts Center
You expect intimacy in a 385-seat space, but the McGuire's steep, raked seating—the first row is right at stage level, and even the back row looms close to the action—puts the performers in the audience's lap, with superb sight lines and a cutting-edge acoustical design to further freshen the experience. The balcony box seats that rim the perimeter of the main floor provide a degree of exclusivity, legroom, and wheelchair accessibility. Perhaps just as important are the benefits the new McGuire offers in conforming to the performers' needs. With a stage 40 feet deep and a wide range of technical capabilities, the space can accommodate full orchestras and multimedia performances, a situation rare if not unprecedented in a venue of this size. It is ideal for the sort of ambitious and sophisticated offerings that Walker performing arts director Philip Bither specializes in unearthing, such as the world premiere of Pine Eyes, an animated feature with live music by the local ensemble Zeitgeist. Perhaps the only caveat we have to this wonderful space is its name. We understand that United Health CEO William McGuire has parlayed our broken health care system into untold riches and compensation packages for himself totaling hundreds of millions of dollars per year. We just wish the Walker had hit up some of its other fat-cat donors—or added a buck or so to its ticket prices—instead of giving this spiritual heir to the great robber barons a piece of its noble legacy.