Glamorous Gladstone theatre opens in Ottawa

An art-deco style theatre with red carpets and crystal chandeliers debuted Thursday night in a former cinderblock garage that once housed the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

An art-deco style theatre with red carpets and crystal chandeliers debuted Thursday night in a former cinderblock garage that once housed the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

A full house of friends, family and other theatre lovers packed the Gladstone theatre on Gladstone Avenue at Preston Street Thursday evening to take in the results of its transformation — and the British farce How the Other Half Loves.

The gala opening was the culmination of a dream for Steve Martin, an Ottawa businessman who, wearing a canary yellow jacket, ushered guests into the theatre Thursday.

Martin, who owns a dance studio a few doors down, bought the old GCTC building last summer after that theatre company moved to its new home on Wellington Street.

He put more than $1 million of his own money into the renovations, and is pleased with what the porcelain tiles, the new facade, the flashy marquee and other details have done.

"That's exactly the feel we're looking for — that red carpet treatment for not only the actors on stage but for the guests visiting the Gladstone," he said. "We wanted to create a look and feel that reflected a gone-by era perhaps and I think we've achieved that."

On Thursday, theatregoers such as Wendy Sewell admired the new decor.

"I like the way it invokes the old golden age of theatre. And it brings people out and they can dress up and enjoy a good play."

Tony, Pulitzer winners to take stage

Martin said he's well aware that the decor isn't enough to keep people coming back.

"It's what actually happens onstage."

Opening night ended with nearly the whole house rising to its feet to applaud How the Other Half Loves, a play about three married couples by Alan Ayckbourn directed by John P. Kelly and featuring several Ottawa actors.

The theatre's first 11-play season is to feature accessible works that have won Tony awards and Pulitzer prizes, which Martin is hoping will pack the theatre night after night and help him turn a profit and keep local actors and crews employed.

Many of the plays will be performed by local theatre companies that never before had a home.

Kelly, director of Seven Thirty Productions, said that will make a big difference for his company.

"In order to have a loyal audience, you need to build a subscription list. You need to make people feel they're a part of the venture, a part of the production … and the only way you do that is with a home."