Howard Reborn

A famed Washington, D.C., theatre that helped launch the careers of Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Ella Fitzgerald has reopened following a $29 million renovation.

The 102-year-old Howard Theatre shuttered in 1980 and fell into disrepair. But after two years of restorations, the venue opened its doors in grand style with a benefit gala April 12.

Updates to the Howard include a restored exterior façade, preservation of interior columns that hold up the balcony and high-tech audio and video systems with HD video screens and recording capabilities. The 1,100-capacity venue features supper-club seating for 650 and will include a full, gourmet kitchen.

Blue Note Entertainment has inked a 20-year lease to operate the venue.

It is considered the first venue The Supremes ever played, and is where Fitzgerald won an early Amateur Night contest. In the balcony, audiences watched Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne, and listened to the words of Booker T. Washington, Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this project and to help preserve the rich tradition of The Howard, while bringing forth a modern concept in both design and programming,” Blue Note President Steven Bensusan said. “We’ve created a very flexible venue that can host an array of events. Our booking policy will be eclectic, and we plan to feature all genres of music.”

Upcoming shows at the venue, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, include Bad Brains, Blue Oyster Cult and Esperanza Spalding.