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Orpheum Theatre is a Treasure ~ January 25, 2007

Posted by on January 26, 2007

Yesterday my 11-year-old son Jon went on a field trip to see Slim Goodbody’s “Bodyology.” It’s a traveling stage show that uses music, movement, fanciful props, and a large rear screen projection unit to help kids understand how their bodies work while inspiring them to be the best they can be. While it’s correlated to state health education standards for grades K-4, children up to age 12 (and their parents) say they enjoy the show. (Maybe you remember seeing Slim Goodbody on TV during the 1970’s. It’s still the same guy, too – only he doesn’t have the big Afro hairdo anymore!) Another neat thing was, the show’s location was in the Orpheum Theatre which is a wonderful field trip destination in itself. Here is how Jon describes his experience:

“When we got to the theater, it was packed with school kids. There were only a few other homeschoolers. We had to wait and when we finally got in, we were able to sit in the balcony. We watched the play. There was this guy dressed up in a body suit. He said his name was Slim Goodbody. He talked about the brain, the heart, the lungs, the liver, the nerves, the diaphragm, the stomach and digestive system. He said that your body is made up of millions of different cells. He talked about how many bones we have. He showed a picture of a real heart. He showed what can happen to your lungs if you smoke. He showed how the smaller the person, the faster the heartbeat and the larger the person, the slower the heartbeat. He sung songs about the body. We practiced singing “Lubba Dubba.” He had some kids come up and do tricks to show what their muscles can do. He also had some teachers come up and do tricks to get a DVD of his shows. The Orpheum Theatre was like a big fancy castle filled with treasure. It had cushioned seats, a spiral staircase, brass decorations, and faces carved in the walls. There was a sky painted on the ceiling, and there was a painting of a desert on the wall. Where they had the show, they had lights that looked like clouds moving.”

Jon wasn’t exaggerating in his description of the theatre’s castle-like appearance. The Orpheum is the last remaining example of “theatre palace” architecture in Phoenix, and as much of its visible splendor as possible was restored. For example, two “mouse holes” on each side of the auditorium project moving clouds on the ceiling, and two further projectors on the balcony project stars. A website called “America‘s Stunning Theatres” has recent color photos of the Phoenix Orpheum:

Did You Know…? The historic Orpheum Theatre offers regularly scheduled free guided one-hour tours, every Monday at 12 noon and 1 pm. Tours are conducted by docents from the Friends of the Orpheum Theatre. “The Orpheum Theatre is easily the grandest, most beautiful entertainment venue in all of Arizona,” said Robert R. Allen, Deputy Director Phoenix Civic Plaza, Phoenix Stages Division. “It was originally built in 1929, the last major construction project in Phoenix before the Great Depression. After the City of Phoenix bought the Orpheum in 1984 it was decided to completely restore what was once known as the ‘Grand Dame of Movie Palaces’ to its original splendor. It took 12 years to complete that project, and the result is an Orpheum Theatre every bit as magnificent as it was when it was first opened. We believe everyone should have the chance to see it, and learn about it, to truly appreciate what a wonderful treasure we have here in Phoenix.” The Orpheum Theatre is located at 203 West Adams Street, one block north of Washington. Groups should call 602-534-5600 for tour bookings. Group tours may be scheduled throughout the week, depending upon theater availability.

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