Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Connecticut:
On the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam is one of the state’s cultural and artistic wonders. Goodspeed Opera House was originally built at 6 Main Street at the direction of a local merchant and banker named William Goodspeed. Construction began in 1876 and it was completed in 1877. Despite its name, the venue was used for stage plays and musicals, not opera. The first play, Charles II, opened on October 24, 1877. After William Goodspeed’s death, the property fell into disrepair.
The property was used as military facility during World War I, then as a general store and after that as a Department of Transportation storage facility. In 1959 a group of concerned citizens formed Goodspeed Musicals in response to the building being condemned by the State of Connecticut. The state agreed to sell the building to the group for $1, provided that Goodspeed Musicals dedicated enough funding to restore the building. The restoration took nearly four years, and the Goodspeed Opera House was rededicated on June 8, 1963.
Goodspeed Opera House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 30, 1971. The last play before the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed Goodspeed Opera House was Billy Elliot the Musical on November 24, 2019. Two years later, the venue reopened with a musical review called “A Grand Night for Singing” in October of 2021. Something else you may not know about Goodspeed is that the theater portion of the building is located in the two top floors.
More info on Goodspeed:
“Under the direction of Michael Price from 1968 to 2014, Goodspeed transformed from a struggling entity into a non-profit arts organization with a mission. At first, Goodspeed’s commitment was to discover rarely produced musicals from the repertoire, reworking them and bringing them to life. We were also intent on adding to the repertoire by discovering and nurturing promising new musicals presented at both the Opera House and the Norma Terris Theatre in neighboring Chester. In our history, we have produced over 250 musicals, including over 70 world premieres, and exported 21 productions to Broadway. Goodspeed stands as the first regional theatre in America to earn two special Tony Awards, one in 1980 for outstanding contributions to the American musical and a second in 1995 for distinguished achievement for a regional theatre.”
Visit Goodspeed Musicals’ website: https://www.goodspeed.org/
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