St. Louis Theatre: ‘Fabulous’ theater strives to be student-friendly

Located just one block away from Saint Louis University’s Frost Campus, the Fabulous Fox Theatre has been entertaining audiences since its opening in 1929.  This historic theater produces shows year round, including touring plays and musicals, comedians, musicians and dance groups. Students can even enjoy these performances for a discounted price.

“I love going to the Fox,” theatre major Jessica Canfield said.  “With the theater being so close to campus, and the fact that they do student rush tickets, it’s really easy to see the shows there.”  Student rush tickets are often available the day of a show for a discounted price, usually between $10 to $15. If students are interested in working for free tickets, they might consider signing up as a volunteer usher.

The Fox Theatre is one of five Fox Theatres built by William Fox. The original theater boasted of the second largest auditorium in the U.S. at the time, with more than 5,000 seats. It showed movies as well as elaborate stage shows.  When the stock markets crashed in 1929, William Fox lost his fortunes. His theater hardly fared better. Competing with neighboring theaters in a failing economy, the Fox Theatre was leased to multiple owners in the 1930’s.

Finally in March of 1978, the Fox Theatre was shut down. The landmark seemed to have been closed forever after less than 50 years of business.  However, in 1981, Leon and Mary Strauss explored the abandoned theatre and instantly fell in love.  They, along with Fox Associates, bought back the prized theatre. It cost $3 million to restore the theatre, while it had cost $6 million to build it in 1929. They wanted to replicate the theater to its original state on its opening night in 1929.

The Fox Theatre has been serving St. Louis for years, providing an eclectic assortment of arts and entertainment. It has provided venues for stars such as Bob Hope, who sold 80,000 tickets in one week in 1940, Nat “King” Cole, Pearl Bailey and John Wayne. Archbishop Joseph Ritter even condemned the theater as a “place of sin” when they displayed an 80-foot cut-out of actress Jane Russell in 1953.

For the 25th anniversary since the renovation, Mary Strauss and other members of the staff put together a display to commemorate the past 1,500 performers and shows that have entertained at the Fox since 1982. This display, called Peacock Alley, is located on the fourth floor and is free to visit.

Whether students are interested in touring a historical building near campus or seeing a favorite comedian take the stage, visitors should check out the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

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