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Folly Theater Kansas City MO


Folly Theater

The Standard Theatre, now known as the Folly Theater and also known as the Century Theater and Shubert’s Missouri, is a former vaudeville hall in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Built in 1900, it was designed by Kansas City architect Louis S. Curtiss. The theater was associated with the adjoining Edward Hotel (later the Hotel Missouri), demolished in 1965, by the same architect.

The Standard Theatre opened with 2400 seats on September 23, 1900, featuring burlesque and vaudeville. It was built by Colonel Edward Butler of St. Louis, Missouri at a cost of $250,000 for his son to present shows on the Empire vaudeville circuit. A 1901 fire at the nearby Coates Opera House rcaused opera and comic opera performances to be moved to the Standard, featuring such performers as Sarah Bernhardt, Richard Mansfield and Maude Adams.. The theater’s name changed to the "Century" in 1902. The Century featured acts from the Empire burlesque circuit, including Al Jolson, Fannie Brice and Eddie Foy. In addition to theater acts, the Century featured prizefighting and wrestling, with appearances by Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey. Johnson stayed in the manager’s apartment, as hotels refused to rent him a room.

The Shubert brothers bought the Century in 1923 and renamed it "Shubert’s Missouri" after extensive renovations by Shubert architect Herbert J. Krapp. The Shuberts booked dramatic productions including Shakespeare and O’Neill plays. The Marx Brothers performed I’ll Say She Is for three weeks in 1923-24, the long run convincing the Shuberts to continue operating the theater. After 1928 business fell off and the theater was used for touring shows on an intermittent basis until it closed in 1932. After a tax sale it eventually reopened in 1941 as "The Folly", featuring striptease. Performers included Gypsy Rose Lee and Tempest Storm, and before the Folly closed in January 1974, Chesty Gabor. The theater began showing adult moves in 1969, apparently prompting an unknown person to plant a dynamite stick in a drainpipe on December 29, 1969. By 1974 the owner was considering demolishing the theater for a parking lot.

Following the Folly’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, a "Strip the Folly" fundraiser was held featuring Sally Rand, who had performed at the Folly. After seven years a full renovation was completed in 1981, including the construction of an annex on the site for the former Edward Hotel.

The Neo-Palladian facade uses Carthage limestone and red pressed brick, with an adapted Palladian window centered in the facade. Rather than a fully-glazed infill within the limestone Palladian framework, the lower portion of the unit uses three arched windows with an entablature over the center window dividing it from the lunette under the principal arch. The street level is heavily rusticated limestone with three arched entrances and wrapping a short way around the right (east) side to form an additional arch. The east wall contains small limestone-freamed ventialtion openings near the top, as well as emergency exits and a 19-foot (5.8 m) high opening for stage scenery. The building is 125 feet (38 m) deep, 70 feet (21 m) wide and 65 feet (20 m) high.

The interior structure mixes steel and wood construction. There is a basement under the stage, housing mechanical systems and backstage service spaces. The main floor is entered through a lobby and box office area. The house contains three sections of seats facing a highly decorated proscenium arch. The house is flanked by balcony-level boxes, with the main balcony to the rear. The stage is provided with a fly loft, fly balconies, a scenery workshop and ten dressing rooms. Interior decoration is predominantly red and gold.

The exterior is largely unaltered, but the interior has been substantially renovated. In 1923 the lobby was reduced in size, moving the box office and eliminating a secondary box office for the balcony, while the balcony itself and a gallery level were replaced by a single larger balcony, reducing seating capacity. Plasterwork in the upper levels was replaced at this time, and a manager’s apartment was removed.