Remember this? 86-year-old Music Hall, Little Theater

Eighty-six years ago, on June 14, 1936, the Kansas City Music Hall and Little Theater venue space opened inside Kansas City’s majestic Municipal Auditorium for the first time.

Municipal Auditorium, a stunning example of Art Deco architecture, was designed by the architectural firm of Gentry, Voskamp & Neville Hoit, Price & Barnes. Built of limestone, concrete and steel at the cost of $6.5 million, it was largely funded by a  $1,135,000 grant from the Federal Public Works Administration.

The Music Hall is a large theater with a modern, Art Deco-inspired interior that seats an audience of 2,400 people. The hall is a venue for touring Broadway shows, visiting symphony orchestras, opera and ballet companies, as well as local events such as high school graduations and other events. The Music Hall was also home to the Kansas City Philharmonic for several decades.  

“The music hall supposedly is haunted by a ghost,” said Steve Lesher, Municipal Auditorium Senior Event Manager. “The Man in the Gray Suit is what we called him. Supposedly a rigger or someone had fallen off the rafters while setting up a show and died on stage and we used to have a cleaning lady and she would clean every part of the building but refused to go into the Music Hall. One year, “Phantom of the Opera” was one of the shows and ghost hunters and there was a radio show competition where if you won you spent the night with the ghost hunters in the hall.”

The Little Theater is an octagon-shaped room, featuring marble floors and wall accents. According to the Kansas City Convention Center website, a balcony overlooks the main floor on five sides, lighted alcoves provide a sheltered setting for beverage service, and there is theater seating for up to 400 people and banquet seating for 220.

The venue is typically used for weddings and large events. The room is described by local postcard publisher, Max Bernstein, as “the jewel of the auditorium” and “space of breath-taking and fairy tale beauty.” 

The theater has its own entrance located on 13th Street and is equipped with a marquee, box office, lobby, coat-check, and restrooms. Bernstein published a series of linen style Art Deco postcards during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. 

Both spaces are filled with large artworks by local artists and have been a place of meeting and beauty since their grand opening. 

For more information on Kansas City’s historic Municipal Auditorium, visit kcconvention.com/venue/municipal-auditorium/.

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