History

1954 Folly theaterBeginnings

Beginning in 1900, The Folly Theatre became the premier showplaces for for performing arts in Kansas City, packing in a wide variety of entertainment filled with stunning appearances by Marx Bros., Humphrey Bogart, and Shirley Boothstar among others.

1900

The theater opened on September 23rd, as the Standard Theatre with a performance of “The Jolly Grass Widows.”  Vaudeville is featured.

1901

The theater was renamed to Century Theater. Legitimate repertory, boxing, and vaudeville are offered.

1902

Vaudeville and burlesque returned as main attractions.

1922

The theater is closed.

Milestones

The entrance of soldiers into World War II saw the emergence of a new form of entertainment with an old name: Burlesque. No longer chorus lines of dancing girls and blue humor, burlesque was striptease. And all the big names took a turn on the Folly stage including Tempest Storm, Ann Corio, and the indomitable Gypsy Rose Lee.

The burlesque tradition still continues with regular performances on our stage by the New Century Follies.

1923

The theater is leased by the Shuberts and renamed the Shuberts Missouri.  Remodeled by replacing two wooden balconies with a single, concrete-reinforced balcony.  Featured quality legitimate theater until subleased to a burlesque troupe in 1928.

1932

The theater is closed.

1941

The theater is reopened as the Folly Theater featuring burlesque.

1958

Movies are added to burlesque stage shows.

1973

The theater is closed and slated for demolition.  Joan Dillon and William Deramus III headed effort to save “The Grand Old Lady of Twelfth Street.”  City Council passes delay ordinance in March.

Rebirth

Following an extensive restoration program, The Folly is now the premier showplace for Kansas City audiences to see the best touring entertainment the world has to offer.  The Folly continues to enrich the cultural landscape of Kansas City for future generations.  Each year, tens of thousands of guests discover the wonder of the Folly and all that she has to offer, from the wail of a jazz saxophone to heart-stopping drama to breathtaking dance performances.

1974

The theater is placed on the National Register of Historic Places in June.  Stand Redevelopment Corp. formed in September and merged with the non-profit Performing Arts Foundation (PAF).  PAF purchases property in December with funds raised from foundations, corporations, individuals, $60,000 from the Department of Interior, and Community Development funds from the city of Kansas City.

1975

Design team is chosen, the theater is cleaned, temporarily rewired, roof leaks fixed and building secured.  Fund-raising for renovation begins in late fall.

1976

Auction of Folly memorabilia and performance by Sally Rand held in June.

1977

A $25,000 grant from the Department of Interior is awarded in May.  Mortgage burning March 15.  Palladian windows restored and dedicated.

1978

The Folly hosts League of Historic American Theatres.  “Chorus Line” benefit presented in April.  Macy’s opens its “Cellar” as benefit for Folly in October.

1979

Public attends open house in June.  Council formed as the Folly Theater’s volunteer arm.  $50,000 Department of Interior grant for plaster work awarded.  Folly received $1 million from HUD/UDAG grant.

1980

The Folly chocolate bar sold.  Stripper Tempest Storm revisits the Folly.  Ground breaking for new wing held September 12.

1981

Open house in April reveals renovation progress.  Pianist Bobby Short is the feature for the Benefit Concert.  “Folly Alive!” media campaign.  “Shareholder” membership campaign launched in September.  Theater reopens November 10th, with production of the comedy “Room Service.”

2000

Theater closed in May for remodeling and renovation including a decorative paint treatment in the theater, expanded lobby space, additional restrooms, and new sound and light systems.  Reopened on September 23rd, the Folly’s 100th anniversary, with Gala and performance by Gregory Hines.

2006

In October, the theater celebrated the 25th anniversary of its re-opening with a gala party and performance by Bob Newhart and guest appearance by Walter Cronkite.

2011

The Folly Theater was chosen by Downbeat Magazine as one of the top 100 Jazz venues in the world.

2012

A “Light the Lights” Gala celebrated the installation of a new marquee sign – the first since 1974.