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Pasadena Civic Auditorium

Pasadena Civic Auditorium

Website: http://www.thepasadenacivic.com/ Open website in new window

Telephone: (626) 795-9311 Call (626) 795-9311

Address: 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91101 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

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 Overview

The Pasadena Civic Auditorium opened in February 1932, designed by the team of George Bergstrom, Cyril Bennett and Fitch Haskell. The huge auditorium seats 2,997. During the 1930s and 1940s the Pasadena Civic hosted numerous community events and radio broadcasts, helping to spread Pasadena’s name throughout California and across the US.

The Civic Auditorium was the last of three major civic center projects for Pasadena, following construction of the city’s library and City Hall. Funding came from the city’s Water & Power Department.

The exterior building is an Italian Renaissance style with the main façade set well back from Green St to allow for a large civic plaza. The interior decoration scheme is by Jess Stanton (Stanton also designed the exterior tiling), executed in a Mediterranean Revival style with Greek influences and even heraldic themes on the side walls. The auditorium’s intricately painted ceiling design is by Giovanni Smeraldi. The wide panels flanking the proscenium arch are Grecco-Roman with, in our humble opinion, a suggestion of Escher!

The theatre is arguably best known for being the home for the Emmy Awards from 1977 until 1997. To this day it continues to be a popular venue for TV specials and is regularly used for America’s Got Talent auditions.

The Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever Link opens in new window TV special was taped at the Pasadena Civic on March 25, 1983 and is best remembered for Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean” in which he debuted his signature dance move – the Moonwalk.

In 1979 the Pasadena Civic was gifted a Moller theatre organ. The organ has a storied past, having been commissioned in the late 1930s by ex-BBC Organist Reginald Foort, to fulfill his desire to tour a full size organ all around the UK to educate and entertain those who wouldn’t normally have access to such an experience. The organ was originally 5 manual, 27 rank, and weighed-in at 30 tons. It was transported around the UK in four large trucks by a staff of 15. Early in World War II, the BBC’s Compton theatre organ was destroyed in an air raid; Foort, upon hearing the news, loaned the Moller organ to the BBC. Post-war, with many UK theatres closed, Foort recognized that further organ tours were impractical and so he sold the organ to the BBC, who acquired a church in Hoxton, just north of Shoreditch in London, as a new BBC Studio to house the organ. The organ was heard broadcasting on the BBC for almost 20 years. In 1963 the organ moved to the Netherlands but was rarely used. Ten years later the organ was purchased for installation into “Organ Power Pizza” in Pacific Beach, California (just north of San Diego), where it was dedicated in 1975 after a comprehensive rehabilitation at the Moller factory, including addition of a Trumpet en chamade taking the organ up to 28 ranks. In 1979 the organ came up for sale again, at which point J. B. Nethercutt formulated a plan to purchase the organ and donate it to the city of Pasadena.

The Pasadena Civic has hosted the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pasadena Symphony (their home for some time), and MUSE/IQUE, a counter-conventional orchestra. A Wenger Orchestra Shell is installed. The theatre was host to the dance program for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in addition to repeated engagements by the American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the San Francisco Ballet.

In addition to the theatre space the building also houses the Gold Room, a Georgian-style ballroom located in front of the Mezzanine lobby, above the entrance lobby, which can cater to a crowd of 300. The Gold Room has a small stage and can be used for move projection.

Bill Clinton appeared in conversation at the Pasadena Civic in 2009. Artists who have appeared at the Pasadena Civic include Victor Borge, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, Luciano Pavarotti, Josh Groban, Marian Anderson, Eric Clapton, David Copperfield, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Hal Holbrook, Arthur Rubenstein and Carlos Santana. Broadway productions include Cats, Les Miserables, Riverdance, Beauty and the Beast, and Evita.

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