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SIOUX CITY | For the past 13 years, performers from near and far have ushered in a new era of entertainment.
Just take the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra and Rockestra concerts. The Broadway shows. And the glittering array of big name entertainers from Bill Cosby, who was the first big-name act to appear at the renovated Orpheum on Sept. 23, 2001, to Ray Charles, James Taylor, Jerry Seinfeld, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Ron White, Loretta Lynn, Tony Bennett, David Copperfield, B.B. King, Chicago and Tony Bennett, to name a few.
Public radio superstar Garrison Keillor broadcast his show, "A Prairie Home Companion," live from the Orpheum Theatre. "The War of the Worlds" was re-created there. And TV star Guy Fieri brought his high-energy live cooking show to the Orpheum's stage.
The seven-story structure, at 528 Pierce St., was built for $1.27 million in 1927 as a vaudeville and movie palace.
With 2,500 seats, it was one of the largest theaters in the "Orpheum Circuit," an organization that began in 1887 and sponsored high-class vaudeville performers across the country.
In 1969, it was converted to a single movie theater, and re-converted in the 1980s to a twin-screen theater. During this conversion, much of the theater's ornate interior was altered. As Orpheum chronicler George Lindblade described it, the theater suffered "numerous insensitive remodels" over the decades.
But after years of neglect, backers launched the nonprofit Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project that resulted in the painstaking renovation of the vacant theater.
In 1989, the campaign to save the theater was christened "Save Our Orpheum." An architectural treasure, shielded from public view for decades, was brought back to life.
Over the years, the Orpheum has brought to Siouxland touring companies of Broadway shows that have never been seen here before, like "Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Mama Mia!" and "Spamalot."
Every year, a Broadway Series of productions brings to town some of the bigger hits.
From its hand-carved detailing, gilded ornamentation and crystal chandeliers, there's passion for the Orpheum Theatre.