Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Brady Theater in Tulsa

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Brady Theater in Tulsa

Article excerpt

When it comes to celebrated histories, no Oklahoma building claims such legendary status as Tulsa's Brady Theater.

Its star performances equal those of any stage built over the last 100 years - from George M. Cohan to Bill Cosby, the Marx Brothers to Elvis, Enrico Caruso to Henry Fonda, Will Rogers to B.B. King, Bob Hope to Buddy Holly, Isadora Duncan to Benny Goodman, Al Jolson to U2.

But unlike many other venues, the Brady's legacy stretches far beyond celebrity. While the theater's construction registered as something of a marvel, as might be expected of early oil-wealth dreams, its position at 105 W. Brady St. put the brick, stone and steel hulk at the center of Tulsa's deepest nightmare, the 1921 race riot. Its 1930 remodeling injected still another iconic Tulsa element, art deco. And its concerts celebrated the best of the Tulsa Sound, that wonderful brew of country, rock and blues honed by such Tulsans as J.J. Cale, Elvin Bishop and David Gates.

"The Tulsa Sound was pretty much made there," said musician and architect Steve Alter, who two years ago proposed a $17 million renovation for the structure.

Although he never performed at the Brady, Alter worked backstage many times, including the Leon Russell birthday bash.

"It's got just an incredible close feeling when you perform there," he said.

With a $100,000 bond issue passed by a vote of 906-311, Tulsa's founders commissioned the Kansas City architectural firm Rose and Peterson to design an auditorium of brick, stone and steel able to shelter a fifth of the city's 20,000 population. The resulting Convention Hall (or Municipal Theater, depending on your historical notes) opened in 1914 as the largest concert facility between Kansas City and Houston, and one of only 16 in the U.S. equipped to host a full Metropolitan Opera production.

Although dismissed by some for its barn-like interior, what became known as "The Old Lady on Brady" put its classical acoustics to the test with an opening performance by the New York opera queen Louise Homer. Fifty Tulsa business leaders offered $30 each (about $632 in 2008 dollars) to cover any losses from the recital, but it proved unnecessary. …

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