Saenger Reopens While Hard Rock Cleanup Continues

Photo: Rich Collins

NEW ORLEANS – Over the last decade, Saenger Theatre General Manager David Skinner has had to oversee not one but two grand reopenings of the beloved 90-year-old Canal Street venue.

The theater reopened in 2013 after a $52 million renovation erased the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. This week, the Saenger will open its doors once again after a two-month closure caused by the partial collapse of the under-construction Hard Rock Hotel across the street.

Skinner said it was fortunate that the theater building didn’t sustain much damage during the initial incident on Oct. 12 or when, on Oct. 20, engineers used explosives to bring down two construction cranes that were suspended dangerously over the site.

“The theater itself was extremely lucky. When the original collapse happened, we had a small hole in the roof of the building and some marble damage on the Rampart side of the venue,” said Skinner. “From the [crane] implosion, we had shrapnel that put a few extra holes in the roof of the building and knocked out some display cases on the Rampart side. Overall, being 60 or 70 feet away from the Hard Rock and that’s all the damage we had, we were extremely lucky.”

Skinner said it was also fortunate that during the time the theater were closed, organizers were able to move almost every show on the schedule to the Mahalia Jackson Theater. “The only impact we had here was the loss of 12 performances of ‘Wicked,’” he said. “Tomorrow we reopen and we’re back in business as usual.”

The first show back in the Saenger is the Nov. 11 performance by magician Chriss Angel.

The real magic tricks, however, may be taking place outside the theater, where staff and police will be guiding patrons in and out of the building without the use of Rampart Street except in the case of an emergency.

“I ask for everybody’s patience as we work through this,” said Skinner. “The next few months will be a challenge but, if anything, New Orleanians who were here during Katrina know what challenges are and we will all work together and get through this.”

Upcoming shows at the Saenger include singer Lauren Daigle, a theatrical production of “A Christmas Story,” two versions of “The Nutcracker” ballet, R&B legends Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, comedian Bill Burr and a Harry Potter-inspired concert.

Things to know before you see a show at the Saenger: 

  • Doors will open two hours before showtimes. There will be a “happier hour” featuring lower drink prices during that first hour.
  • $20 parking will be available at the University Place garage (145 University Place) and a continuous free shuttle between the garage and the theater.
  • The designed drop-off and pick-up location for Uber and Lyft customers will be across the neutral ground from the theater in the 100 block of Basin Street. 
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