Jupiter rising

550-seater bows in Reynolds space

JUPITER, FLA. — The former Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater, once dubbed “the miracle at the truck stop,” has reopened as a fashionably muted 550-seat LORT B regional theater. Over the past 25 years, Jupiter has become an upscale suburban oceanfront community.

Now called the Maltz Jupiter Theater, the venue debuted Feb. 29 with a fundraising gala concert starring Brent Barrett and Judy Kaye, followed by several one-night cabaret programs. The official legit bow took place March 18 with a chamber-sized revival of “My Fair Lady,” which was extended a week through April 4.

The project is the brainchild of executive producer Todd Alan Price, an entertainment lawyer who worked at developing co-productions while at Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse in the early 1990s.

“Lady” is a joint production with Atlanta’s Alliance Theater, Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park and the St. Louis Repertory Theater. Price says co-productions will be a hallmark of his legit programming, interspersed with concerts and cabaret acts.

Pundits didn’t offer much encouragement when Price announced his intention to buy and renovate the vacant, deteriorating building three years ago. The large, wooded lot across the street from the Atlantic Ocean was considered prime for high-rise development.

The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater opened in early 1979 at a cost of $2 million, in what was then a small hamlet. Richard Akins took over from 1989-96, and owners of the Akron, Ohio-based Carousel Dinner Theater tried it for the ’96-’97 season. A church group bought it and vacated the space shortly after taking over.

The Maltz Jupiter Theater is named for donors Milton and Tamar Maltz, who donated more than $2 million to the overall project. Another $2 million is coming from a recently passed county bond issue.

The stage and auditorium have been renovated, eating up $4 million of an anticipated $8 million project. Seating rose from 440 to 550. Improvements include a full-sized orchestra pit and up-to-date electronics. The auditorium roof was raised 14 feet, and acoustic designs have vastly improved the sound.

The complex will ultimately include a children’s theater and educational wing, and a black box theater in the former VIP dining room.

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