Edmonton's iconic Roxy Theatre reopens 7 years after devastating fire

·3 min read
Jill Roszell showed members of the public the downstairs black-box theatre in the new Roxy Theatre building this weekend.  (Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Jill Roszell showed members of the public the downstairs black-box theatre in the new Roxy Theatre building this weekend. (Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada - image credit)

More than seven years after the iconic Edmonton landmark burned to the ground, the Roxy Theatre is back open.

The public was invited to tour the new $12-million facility this weekend, and Jill Roszell, the business development director for Theatre Network, which owns and operates the Roxy, said there was a lot of excitement.

"We are thrilled to be back here," Roszell said.

Mirna  Djukic/Radio-Canada
Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada

The Roxy began as a movie house in 1938, and was later converted into a live performance venue in 1989.

When the fire struck in 2015, locals, including Bart Mielczarek, were shocked.

Mielczarek, who lives nearby, said he remembers the Tuesday morning in January when the building burned down. The power on his block went out as he was trying to prepare breakfast for his kids.

"So then we drove out and we saw fire trucks and then flames and all that stuff," Mielczarek said. "When it burned down it was like a big part [of the city] was missing."

For years after the fire, the lot on 124 Street sat empty. However, in 2019 work started to return the theatre to its former glory.

In the end, the project took a little longer than expected.

Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada
Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada

"We have run into the notorious supply chain issues, as you can imagine, mostly with a lot of our equipment," Roszell said. "But we are actually fortunate that we've been able to get the theatres up and running."

While nearly all of the old building was destroyed in the fire, Roszell said they wanted to be sure to incorporate some of the old with the new.

"I will tell you that we did put a few pieces of the old sign hidden into one of the walls to make sure we did have something that carried forward from the old space," she said.

Even though Theatre Network was keen to preserve the essence of the old theatre, they also included a few improvements.

Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada
Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada

There are two theatres in the new building. One is named in honour of a donor, Nancy Power.

"We also have added a rehearsal hall and a rooftop deck," Roszell said. "So we have four places to potentially host performances in this new facility."

Roszell said the changes represent a new chapter for the historic building.

Jacqueline Wallis, who took a tour of the new building, appreciates the effort to preserve the atmosphere of the old space.

"It's a new theatre, right? But it's got a really great feel to it like the old theatre," Wallis said.

Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada
Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada

Mielczarek, who also took part in the tour, agrees. He said he felt a sense of continuity in the Nancy Power Theatre that harkened back to the old building.

He hopes the reopening will invigorate the local area by driving more people to bars and restaurants nearby.

He plans to come back at the end of the month to see Cliff Cardinal's retelling of Shakespeare's As You Like It.

Other upcoming events at the theatre include NextFest, as well as some Fringe Festival events.

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