After two years of renovation and restoration, The Curran theater on Geary Street comes back to life this month with an inaugural production of the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home. This will be just the first of many, edgier full-scale theater productions, some direct from Broadway, that producer and theater owner Carole Shorenstein Hays will be bringing to the refurbished venue, which she calls a "second family home," along with business partners who are also her family her husband Dr. Jeffrey Hays, and son Wally, 29, and Gracie, 26. Curran Live, as the independent organization is now called, is set to bring the acclaimed play Eclipsed in its West Coast premiere in March, as well as Simon McBurney immersive, experimental, audio-enhanced one-man show The Encounter, in April, with more shows yet to be announced.
In lieu of a season subscription, which isn't yet in the cards, they've launched the Curran Club, to which every ticket purchaser for Fun Home will receive a free one-year charter membership. The club will include ticket discounts and special events, as well as other perks.
Constructed in 1922 by Homer Curran and designed by architect Alfred Henry Jacobs, the theater has a rich history that includes being used as a primary location for the 1950 Oscar-winning film All About Eve. This week, the public can get an in-depth 45-minute tour of the theater's new front-of-house spaces before the Fun Home opening, as well as the interior guts of the place not usually open to the public, courtesy of a new app-enabled audio tour from Detour. The tour features narration from theater greats who know its stage well, including James Earl Jones, Carol Channing, Tommy Tune, Kristin Chenoweth, and Patti LuPone, and it takes you backstage to learn about historic moments with Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and more. The theater will be open for Detour touring, via free reservation, during specific time slots on Wednesday, January 18, and Thursday, January 19, from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and multiple slots are still available.
Fun fact: Unlike the next door Geary Theater that belongs to ACT, the Curran suffered minimal damage during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, closing for just a few days due to a leak in the ceiling caused by a toppled water tank. It went on to continue hosting a long run of Les Miserables, which was followed by a five-year run of Phantom of the Opera in the 1990's, the longest run of the show anywhere outside New York.
Those who remember The Curran from its most recent decades as an SHN house where recent shows have included Jersey Boys, Next to Normal, and Peter and the Starcatcher will find some of its insides recognizable in that the seating has all remained in place, with replaced cushions and upholstery (but no increase in legroom). Also, the grand 95-year-old, 224-light chandelier was fully restored by the very same family-run company in the Bayview that originally built it, Phoenix Day a process that required 2,500 man hours and included the cleaning or replacing of 1,300 pounds of Australian crystal.
Some things that won't be recognizable include the grand carved ceiling, which required weeks of cleaning thanks to decades worth of accumulated residue from cigarette smoke Curran rep Jaron Caldwell says that workmen coming down off the scaffolding during that process said they could smell the smoke as they scraped. Also intact, but freshly cleaned, are two murals by Arthur Frank Mathews.
And brand new to the theater's basement level are two huge, brand new bathrooms that required the removal of 1,700 tons of dirt to be added with 17 stalls plus urinals in the men's room, and 19 stalls in the women's room, plus additional single-stall restrooms on an upper level. (As the Chronicle noted in December, when a pre-opening event for a screening of Fences occurred, this means no more having to dart across the street to Jack in the Box, which some Curran theatergoers will remember well, given how tiny the restrooms were pre-renovation.)
Getting a drink at intermission will also be much easier, with bars on every level with lounges at the front end of the building, including in space on a first mezzanine level, decorated with a theater-themed mural by New York artist Steve Powers, that previously housed only offices. Each bar will have a slightly different theme in terms of its offerings as well, with an array of Sonoma wines featured at one of the upper level bars.
Check out our photos of the space, and look for tickets to upcoming shows here. Fun Home opens on January 26.
The Curran has been an occasional advertiser on SFist and the Gothamist network, as have other theaters. This is not a sponsored post, and was not dictated by the Curran.