Boston's historic Colonial Theater being brought back to life

BOSTON — Boston is a city steeped in history with a love of tradition. So there was much concern when the historic Colonial Theater went dark in 2015 and its future looked bleak.

Now, the building on Boylston Street is getting a major facelift as it prepares to re-open next summer.

Restoring a 120-year-old building like the Colonial to its former luster requires painstaking work.

Craftsmen recruited from around the world are using custom molds to recreate ornamentation and tiny paint brushes to recreate gold leaf.

Erica Lynn Schwartz, the general manager of the Emerson Colonial Theater, explained their vision. "What we are looking at doing in here is to restore, repair, and add some new features as well, just to bring the Colonial into 2018."

Many of the changes throughout the building will increase accessibility. For example, new ramps are being added backstage, and the ticket window will be lowered to make it easier to manage for people in wheelchairs.

The Colonial is preparing to re-open next summer with a pre-Broadway run of Moulin Rouge.

"This is going to be a full-fledged theater with full-fledged productions," said Emerson College President Lee Pelton.

That wasn't always the plan. At one point, Emerson College toyed with using the space in other ways. An alliance with the Ambassador Theater Group made restoring the Colonial a realistic possibility.

"In the past, with the lease arrangement that we had with the local theater group, it was hit or miss," said Pelton. "In fact, the theater was closed more often than it was open."

While the work is being done with a reverence for the past, it will also bring the building into the 21st century in some very practical ways - including new bathrooms.

Seating is also being redone. "The technology is much greater. The cushioning, the mechanisms. The seats themselves have a slimmer profile," explained Schwartz.

Pelton believes the theater will be a vibrant catalyst. "It’s going to bring not only residents of Boston here, but visitors from around the world, who want to come and see first-rate theater."

The theater will also be incorporated into Emerson’s campus life, offering students a place to work and intern.