Named after Orpheus, the legendary Greek poet and musician said to be able to charm all things, living and stone, with his music, the historic Orpheus Theatre was opened in the Broadway Theatre District in February 1926. It was the fourth and final Los Angeles venue for the Orpheum vaudeville circuit.
The Orpheum has a Beaux Arts facade designed by movie theater architect G. Albert Lansburgh and has a Mighty Wurlitzer organ that is one of three pipe organs remaining in Southern California venues.
Throughout its history the Orpheum Theatre has hosted some of the biggest names in show business. These include burlesque queen Sally Rand, The Marx Brothers and even Judy Garland at an early, relatively unknown part of her career. At the time Garland was singing with her family as Frances “Baby” Gumm and at that time she was known as Miss Leather Lungs. While not the most feminine of compliments, it is certainly an accurate statement of her vocal strength.
It also hosted comedian Jack Benny, as well as jazz greats Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. It continued to show Vaudeville acts up until the 1950s.
In the 1960s the theatre began to hold rock and roll concerts. Again, big names were typical and included Little Richard, Aretha Franklin and Little Stevie Wonder.
Th Orpheum Theatre underwent a $3 million renovation that was started in 1989. It’s the most restored of the historic movie palaces in Los Angeles. Broadcasts of American Idol and America’s Got Talent, the fifth-season finale of “The Apprentice”, the seventh and eighth-season finales of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and filming of The Last Action Hero and Transformers were hosted here. The Orpheum was the first venue for the Chipmunks’ world tour in the 2007 Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.
The theatre has appeared in a number of films and music videos. These include the 2007 film In Search of a Midnight Kiss and Hop with David Hasselhoff. It appears in Avril Lavigne’s music video for “I’m With You”. The season premier of American Horror Story features shots taken outside of the theater. Brandi Carlile’s music video The Story was filmed at the Orpheum in 2007 and Taylor Swift’s music video for Mean was filmed here in 2011.
The Orpheum Theatre is currently a venue for live concerts, movie premieres and location shoots. It has six floors of dressing rooms, a film projector and a world-class sound system. Having rebranded itself as a performing arts center, the Orpheum has recently hosted acts ranging from Lady Gaga to Wilco, Ray Davies, and tUnE-yArDs.
It is located at 842 S Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. You can get more information on shows and events at The Orpheum Theatre website.