The Richardson Theatre, named for Lieutenant General Robert Richardson, had its grand opening on May 12, 1948. Non-appropriated funds were used in the construction of the building, which started on January 27, 1947 and cost over $800,000. The contractor was South Pacific Construction Company, and the designing architect was Cole McFarlane, former chief of the design section of the Honolulu District Engineer. Upon completion, the theater had a seating capacity of 995.

Richardson Theatre (1958)

The theatre was built for live entertainment and showing movies, training, and as a disaster shelter. The building was originally cooled with a evaporative cooler commonly known as a “swamp cooler.” This system was especially adapted for humid climates and was situated outside in back of the building. The walls are 18 inches thick, constructed of poured concrete. The building is Art Deco in style and has geometric decorative patterns, glass block windows, curved entry walkways, Art Deco-style signage, and geometric metal railings. Until the early 1990s, the exterior color was rose-coral stucco (same as Tripler Army Medical Center) and the doors were red. Richardson Theatre is the only community theatre in Hawaii with a fly gallery and orchestra pit. At the time of construction, it also had a “crying room” for parents with restless children. The building was originally named Fort Shafter Theater, and was renamed Richardson Theatre, probably around 1954. The grand opening in 1948 featured a surprise picture and World Premiere, The Bride Goes Wild, with June Allyson, Van Johnson, and “Butch” Jenkins. The 264th Army Band gave a short concert of military and popular music. There was a performance at 1715 for children living on post and other military installations. A second show played at 2130 military and civilian dignitaries. Both performances were free.

Movies continued at Richardson Theatre until the 1990s. Bob Hope performed a live nationally broadcasted radio show from the theatre on April 2, 1952. Guests on the broadcast included Ann Blyth and Duke Kahanamoku.

In 1987, the theatre became home to the Army Community Theatre (ACT) in Hawaii, and since then big Broadway musicals have been the primary venue. Across the years, Richardson Theatre has featured rising stars such as actors Jason Tam and Chris Jones (who played Frankie Valli in Broadway’s Jersey Boys). Today, the theatre is a playhouse and puts on four major Broadway musicals and four Readers Theatre productions each year. Many distinguished visitors, such as producer Cameron Mackintosh; Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, Jr.; and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, have attended theatre performances.

Richardson Theatre


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General Vincent K. Brooks Commanding General

Vincent K. Brooks

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