Palace Theatre History

Vaudeville’s Columbus Stage

Thomas Lamb, who would design the Ohio Theatre right after completing the Palace, used France’s Palais de Versailles as his inspiration for the Palace Theatre. The construction of the 2,827-seat theatre was personally supervised by vaudeville mogul Edward Albee, and in 1926, the Palace Theatre first opened its doors to the public as part of the Keith-Albee chain. Since the theatre was primarily a vaudeville house, and the performers had to be heard without amplification, great attention was paid to the hall’s acoustics. In 1929, the Palace became the RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum), which it remained until the 1970s.

Home Away from Home

Since shows were usually in town for multiple days and sometimes weeks, the backstage area was designed with the actors’ traveling needs in mind. The dressing room tower was organized like a small hotel complete with a "front desk," where performers picked up their room keys and mail. There were also kitchen facilities and a designated children's playroom for touring performers. The dressing rooms are all named after cities on the vaudeville touring routes, and still bear those names today.

The animals also were taken into consideration. A porcelain animal bath was installed below the stage. There is also a ramp leading to the stage, as many animals will go up stairs, but not down.

Star Power

During the '30s, '40s, and '50s, the Palace Theatre was the most active live show theatre in Columbus. Over the years, most of the top names in the entertainment business have appeared at the Palace Theatre, including Bing Crosby, Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny, Mae West, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Burns and Allen, Eddie Cantor, Bill Robinson, Glenn Miller, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Harpo and Chico Marx.

The CAPA Era

In April of 1989, CAPA purchased the Palace Theatre, consolidating its administrative functions with those of the Ohio Theatre. Currently, the Palace is home to performances by Broadway Across America and scores of CAPA-sponsored shows annually, including Kathleen Battle, Natalie Cole, Tommy Tune, Howie Mandel, David Sanborn, Les Ballets Africains, Mandy Patinkin, Raffi, David Copperfield, Manhattan Transfer, Andy Williams, American Indian Dance Theatre, George Benson, Michael Feinstein, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Bonnie Raitt.