A Familiar Name Lights Up the Marquee
Written By Joan Lerch
In 1890, long before he would be the father of seven singing children, little Georg von Trapp celebrated his 10th birthday in Zara, on the Adriatic coast. Across the Atlantic, Harvard Law School marked its 73rd birthday, and earth, wind and fire were simply classical elements. And in Saint Louis, Benjamin Altheimer and Edward Rawlings formed a financial services company that would become the Stifel Financial Corporation.
More than a century later, these diverse ribbons of history have been gathered up into a glorious bow for an old St. Louis treasure with a brand-new name— the Stifel Theatre.
Built in 1934 as the Municipal Auditorium, and later renamed for former mayor Henry W. Kiel, the grand venue at 14th and Market presented Verdi’s Aida on opening night, featuring stars from the New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1948, both sides of the Kiel Auditorium stage were opened so President Harry S. Truman could deliver a speech to audiences in the Opera House and adjoining Convention Hall. In 1965, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. would take to the stage, in their only televised concert together. In 1978, the Rolling Stones performed a one-night-only show to a sold-out audience.
But in May of 1991, the St. Louis Philharmonic played what would be the last event at Kiel Opera House, before the doors were closed and the famous theatre went dark until 2011, when it reopened as the Peabody Opera House after a 14-month renovation. Over the next seven years, the Peabody would continue the St. Louis entertainment tradition, hosting more than 500 events and welcoming more than one million guests.
On July 18, 2018, this venerated entertainment venue was renamed for one the city’s oldest firms, the Stifel Financial Corporation. Ron Kruszewski, chairman and CEO of Stifel, and Chris Zimmerman, president and CEO of the St. Louis Blues, Enterprise Center and Stifel Theatre, announced the news in the theatre lobby.
"Stifel's been associated with St. Louis for 130 years," said Kruszewski, "It's with great pleasure and pride we get to partner with such a historic structure within the community that we all know and love. This venue has elevated the downtown experience by bringing in quality entertainment and providing a striking backdrop for private and corporate events. As of today, we are officially standing in the Stifel Theatre.”
Commenting on the theatre’s new identity, Zimmerman said, "Having two staples of our community come together for this agreement is a big moment for every who loves and believes in St. Louis. Stifel Financial Corporation has shown an incredible level of commitment to the St. Louis community during more than a century of operation here. This building is a special, special part of our city, and today’s another exciting part of it. We have a lot to celebrate and even more to look forward to.”
The Stifel Theatre schedule of events featured comic and martial arts commentator Joe Rogan and his Strange Times tour in August, as well as the timeless music of Earth Wind & Fire. (The legendary band, with a string of gold and multiple-platinum albums was must-see for live music fan Ron Kruszewski. When asked which show he was most looking forward to, he didn’t hesitate. “That would have to be Earth Wind & Fire!”)
In September, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band will appear for one night only, and in October, KSHE 95’s Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper will deliver rock psycho-drama to fans both old and new.
In November, Grammy nominated multi-platinum trio Hanson, brings their String Theory symphonic tour to the Stifel Theatre. String Theory is a collaboration of song craftsmanship and symphonic majesty, framing the trio’s music through a special collaboration with Academy award winning arranger David Campbell, and will feature a symphony orchestra.
The 2019-2019 Broadway series at the Stifel Theatre opens December 13 with Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, featuring the hit song "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch.” Described by The New York Times as “100 times better than any bedtime story,” the 2018 production of the holiday favorite will be directed by Matt August.
In February, the ingenious and charming Elle Woods brings Harvard Law School to musical life in Legally Blonde — The Musical. Described as “the ultimate tribute to girl power,” the award-winning musical is based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon.
The season continues in March with Something Rotten, a hilarious musical comedy set in Will Shakespeare’s day, about two brothers determined to write the world’s first musical. Theatre critic Joe Dziemianowicz declares, “Yep, this is a blockbuster! A deliriously entertaining new musical comedy that brings down the house!
In March, the most successful movie musical in history comes to the Stifel Theatre, when the dour Captain Von Trapp and his endearing family bring the stage alive in The Sound of Music, with all of the familiar and beloved songs, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.
Moving from the beloved to the outrageous, the theatre’s Broadway series concludes with the Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Monty Python’s Spamalot. Inspired by the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical recounts the adventures of King Arthur and his Knights as they search for the Holy Grail, encountering flying cows, killer rabbits and jeering Frenchmen along the way.
When the gorgeous Art Deco treasure isn’t filled with the sounds of musical performances, you might hear the tinkling of champagne glasses. In 2017, Bride’s Magazine listed the theatre lobby among the top wedding venues in America. The grand spaces of the theatre are also available for corporate events.
From Broadway to brides, from Presidents to pop stars, the grand history of the Stifel Theatre is just the beginning for the next generation of St. Louis entertainment.