From ‘Lee’ to ‘Ladies’: Lutcher turns 30
With his black mink coat lined with rhinestones – only one of the trademark outlandish costumes he wore that night – Liberace gave the inaugural performance at the Lutcher Theater.
He played, sang and told jokes accompanied by his familiar candelabra and references to “my brother George” on Feb. 7, 1980.
In the years since, the Lutcher Theater has hosted numerous sold-out performances from B.B. King to Hal Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight” and just about every major Broadway musical in recent years.
Managing Director Jim Clark estimates some 750 tours have appeared at the theater. Staffers start booking shows at least 12 months in advance. In addition to support from the Stark Foundation and other organizations, Clark applies for grants throughout the year.
Some $5,000 raised during the Liberace show for the theater trust fund was obviously invested well; and the Lutcher has been called by more than one Texas travel or entertainment magazine as one of the top five venues of its kind in the state.
The theater’s relatively new digital marquee brightens a portion of downtown Orange; and like most in the area in 2005 and ‘08 – the theater and staff were not without their troubles after hurricanes. Since 1990, the Lutcher has also entertained thousands of Texas and Louisiana children in special youth-themed performances targeted at schools.
Liberace played classics by Strauss and Chopin and a modern composition from Neil Diamond. Accompanied by a 21-piece orchestra from Houston, he performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and at least three opera numbers. A woman from Austin was thrilled to dance on stage with “Mr. Showmanship” who told the audience “Orange is a place to look up to with this theater, the wonderful museum and Mrs. Stark’s Victorian mansion.”
Other performers that night included tenor Marco Valenti and the husband/wife magician team of Marvyn and Carol Roy. The Lutcher’s opening was not without incident when a 75-year-old woman fell down a section of the balcony. She was treated for minor bruises at the Orange hospital.
Toward the end of the show, Liberace sat in the $6.9 million theater and sang “It’s Impossible” to a 65-year-old woman and 71-year-old man who were newlyweds. A post-performance supper took place at the Brown Center, where the entertainer was presented with a piano-shaped cake by Orange city officials.
Upcoming Lutcher shows include the comedy “Leading Ladies,” the Air Force Band of the West, “Groovaloo,” “The Man Who Planted Trees,” “Romeo and Juliet” and musician Chris Botti.