Skip to content

Detroit Opera House

February 13, 2023

  • 1526 Broadway Street
  • Detroit, MI 48226
  • (313) 237-7464
  • Website

Can I just say how much I love that my kids love theater?  

I grew up in a small, rural town in the 90’s.  I played basketball and baseball, therefore, I was a jock.  I wasn’t allowed to like theater.  You could get away with it if you were super popular but I wasn’t.  I was an athlete so that was that.  I used to always go to my high school’s play productions but I would sit in the back and not let a lot of people know I was there.  I usually had an excuse that I was there to watch a girl but secretly, I always kind of wished I had gotten involved.  

J hates this, but the first theater production I saw and what started my enjoyment of musicals was a touring production of Cats at the Chicago Theater when I was a freshman in high school.  We had to take a music appreciation class for one quarter and we studied the musical because the teacher knew it was coming to Chicago and she wanted to take a group. 

Until I started dating J, the only other time I actually went to the theater was a group outing in college to see Ragtime at what was then the Oriental Theater in Chicago.  

L has been a musical theater fan for many years now.  The first thing she saw was The Lion King at Miller Auditorium. Since then, she’s seen Hamilton twice and Six.  Our goal this year is to start checking off the shows she wants to see.  

One of the musical’s I’ve been wanting to see is Beetlejuice.  Growing up in the 90’s I was obviously a huge fan of the movie.  I started seeing clips on Tik Tok then dove more in to the music.  I figured L would like it so I told her to check it out and she instantly took to three or four songs.  

Beetlejuice closed on Broadway at the end of last year so I knew a US Tour was imminent.  I found two Michigan stops.  One in Detroit and one in East Lansing.  The Detroit dates were better for us so I asked J if she wanted to go.  She was in so we got tickets for the show at the Detroit Opera House.  

The Detroit Opera House is a 101 year old theater on the corner of Broadway and Witherell Streets overlooking Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit.  The building was designed by C. Howard Crane who also designed The Fillmore Detroit and Fox Theater as well as the Detroit Symphony Hall.  The building was originally built as the Capital Theater.  The original use was for both films and live performances.  

Like so many theaters built during the depression, we almost lost the Detroit Opera House. I mean, seriously what were our parents and grandparents doing?! During the 70’s, the theater was reduced to screening second run films and softcore porn?! This giant, magnificent theater building was only being used to show crappy movies.

Luckily, after 10 years of being closed, the Michigan Opera Theater purchased the building, renovated it, and has used it hold operas and traveling theater productions.

We started our day with lunch at Brass Rail Pizza Bar then did some shopping at Woodward. We parked at the Z Park Garage a few blocks from the theater. There is a ramp for parking directly across the street but I didn’t want to get out of a parking ramp after the show.

We got the theater about an hour before showtime. There are two entrances to the building. One is on Broadway and has the box office and will call. That’s the one closest to where we were. The entrance on Madison street is the newer part of the building and is more convenient if you need to use the elevators.

There is security screening right inside the door but it moves pretty quickly with just someone wanding you down. There were several lines and several people scanning tickets. Now that everything is digital, I just put my phone out and the reader dings each time I swipe to the new ticket. Our seats were way up in the upper balcony so they ushered us to a set of stairs right next to the entry.

L was really in awe at the design of the theater. The ornate wall designs, the chandeliers…she’s never been in a theater like this. It is a 100 years old but it’s actually got quite a bit of room for walking around. From the 1st floor balcony, we could see the main merchandise stand below us. There were no souvenirs this time because L had gotten something she really wanted while we were walking around downtown so we weren’t spending the money on a t-shirt.

First order of business, find a bathroom. Like so many other old theaters, bathrooms are at a premium. When we walked up the first landing, I saw the “gentlemen” bathroom so B and I headed there. L and J had to go up another flight of stairs then walk the full length of the building, and go up another flight of stairs before they found the restroom.

B and I got a little more time to marvel at the theater design. It just stands out as a product of it’s time. Decorated in an Italian Renaissance style with crystal chandeliers, frescoes, brass fixtures, and marble stairways it’s something you wouldn’t see built like this today.

We headed over to where the ladies were to wait for them and found a concession stand. They actually had quite a bit more than you usually see at theaters. We got two full size bottles of water, a Coke, a Sprite, and some candy for about $25. J went back at intermission to get more candy so in total, we spent about $40 on concessions. There were beer and win options too and they let us bring all of it in to the theater which is unusual.

The theater is set up with entrances at either end and a few rows in the middle depending on what level you’re on. Accessibility was clearing not a concern of the 1920’s but the theater was retrofitted when it reopened in 1996 to make it a little more accessible.

We decided to go cheap for this show and got tickets in the upper balcony. We had quite a few stairs to climb but there is an elevator if you need it. We got all the way up to the top hallway which is pretty narrow. Our tickets were right on the end so we found the first entrance that would get us in to the theater where we needed to be. Again, there is a pretty big flight of stairs just to get up to the landing to find our seats.

The theater auditorium is gorgeous but you would expect that from the design of the rest of the building. The space seats about 2700 people over a couple of different levels. The balcony itself is pretty steep so you sit up high than the person in front of you. I’m always worried about B at places because he is still kind of short but he said he could see the performance without any problems. L desperately wanted the aisle seat and I let her have it since we were in a row of four. I took the seat by the wall. Turns out, the railing for the stairs was right in her sightline. At intermission, she moved over to my seat and I moved to the aisle. I didn’t have any problems seeing around the rail but I’m taller than she is.

The seats themselves…well, this is an old theater. The seats were wide enough for me but there is not a lot of room between the rows. I have pretty long legs and a bad knee. I had to keep twisting my leg into a weird position so I wouldn’t kick the person in front of me. I was in a lot of pain by the time we got to intermission. I can say I’ve sat in seats that were more uncomfortable but these weren’t super comfortable. That’s something that should be expected in an old theater though.

We watched Beetlejuice of a family in 2020 instead of going trick or treating due to the pandemic. Neither kid really liked it but it’s also a movie from the 80’s. I didn’t like movies from the 50’s and 60’s when I was their age so I get it. I was much older before I developed an appreciation for the media my parents watched when they were my age. I knew L was already familiar with some if the music and I knew B would appreciate some of Beetlejuice’s humor…at least the parts of it he understood.

The musical, though, is not the same story as the movie. There are a lot of familiar elements but there are some really big changes. The Maitland’s death is different, Delia is not yet married to Charles, and the plot focuses heavily on Lydia mourning the death of her mom and trying to use Beetlejuice to bring her back or at least get a chance to talk to her in the Netherworld. The first Act is pretty similar to the movie, the second act deviates heavily. The characters from the Netherworld (shrunken head guy, the football players, Ms. Argentina, etc) show up in the second act as does the sandworm.

All four of us liked the show. B said he gave it a “6 out of 10” because it wasn’t as good as Six. I tried explaining to him that not every musical is going to be that good. L loved it. She’s been listening to the soundtrack non-stop. J and I both thought it was hilarious. The humor is a little inappropriate for the kids but as someone else said to J, the younger one didn’t get it and the older one has probably heard worse at school. There is some swearing and some sexual jokes….and the show deals heavily with death…but we didn’t feel it was too dark or too inappropriate for our kids. Others may disagree so just throwing that out there.

We walked away from the Detroit Opera House with having a great experience. Just like restaurants, we always like seeing shows in new places. The theater itself is part of the experience. J and I have been to a few of the depression era theaters in Chicago and New York. It was cool to see this place. That was part of the reason we opted to see the show in Detroit instead of East Lansing. We’re planning on seeing another show in East Lansing in May so we made the choice to experience something new with Beetlejuice.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: