State Theatre New Jersey is back and better than ever. After a pandemic-enforced closure, the theater reopens Wednesday, October 6, following a year-long, $12 million renovation, and we got a sneak preview of the improvements and what's in store at the venue, which has withstood the test of time and is poised to celebrate its centennial anniversary in December. State Theater New Jersey is so iconic, we've included it on our list of 100 things to do with New Jersey kids before they grow up.
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The New Brunswick theater first opened its doors in 1921 as a silent film movie house and is commemorating its milestone with the installation of a dazzling new blade marquee. "Being an old building, renovations are inevitable," says Kelly Blithe, director of communications & community engagement for State Theatre. "We went through a big renovation in 2003-04, and this is our first major overhaul since then."
What’s new? An elevator! "One hundred years is a long time to not have elevator access to the second floor," says Blithe. Added wheelchair spaces and transfer seats have also increased the theater’s accessibility for everyone. Theatergoers can look forward to all new seats, additional family bathrooms on both levels, as well as a new gender-neutral bathroom. Plus, all of the bathrooms are now entirely touchless, from the soap dispensers to the faucets and the hand dryers. “We took this time during COVID to really think how we wanted the theater to be better and safer, and this was one change we decided to make during the renovation process,” says Blithe.
What hasn’t changed is State Theatre’s commitment to providing world-class live entertainment, especially for kids and families. Its holiday lineup is particularly festive, featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Monday, November 29-30), A Very Electric Christmas (Wednesday, December 1), Cirque Dreams Holidaze (Wednesday, December 8-Thursday, December 9), and the American Repertory Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker (Friday, December 17-Sunday, December 19). And for the first time, the theater hosts The Hip Hop Nutcracker on Sunday, January 2, 2022, featuring hip-hop legend MC Kurtis Blow. “We’re always looking to expand and diversify our events, whether it's showcasing different styles of dances or types of music,” says Blithe. “We have some really exciting possibilities for Spring 2022 that will provide even more family programming than we’ve had in the last few years.”
State Theatre’s popular Milk & Cookies family programming will continue to be virtual for the fall and winter, though Blithe says she hopes to return to live performances in the spring. For a $10 donation, families get three months of access to lively storytelling and music videos, perfect for kids ages 3-10.
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Charlie & the Chocolate Factory is one of the shows playing in State Theatre New Jersey's Broadway Series.
Parents can also look forward to an exciting lineup of musicals, concerts, and other live performances. "We used to have the old sandbag pulley system that limited us to only having room for 12 set pieces, but with our new motorized system, we can present bigger shows we couldn't have done before," explains Blithe. The centerpiece of State Theatre’s programming is its Broadway Series, which kicks off opening weekend with Escape to Margaritaville. Future shows include Cats, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Hairspray, Waitress, An American in Paris, and Anastasia. Other performers on the schedule include the Blue Man Group and Riverdance, plus concerts starring Gladys Knight and Leslie Odom Jr. (of Hamilton fame).
“We’re so excited to be back with live performances,” says Blithe.
The theater is reopening with safety top of mind. All visitors must either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of the event. All guests 2 years and older are required to wear masks at all times while inside the venue.
Tickets for all upcoming performances can be booked online.
Photo and rendering courtesy of the theater