J&M Brown Completes Restoration of Emerson Colonial Theatre, Boston, MA

In June 2018, J&M Brown Company (JMB) completed the comprehensive electrical restoration and renovation of the historic Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston. The project required elaborate electrical and lighting renovations.

The Emerson Colonial now features an upgraded electrical distribution system. Prior to the installations associated with the distribution system, JMB provided a comprehensive survey of the theatre’s existing distribution system.  The scope in this project phase included providing installations of the new distribution system for power, lighting as well as A/V equipment, while leaving the existing distribution system in place.

The NECA Boston Chapter contractor’s scope included comprehensive relighting of the entire theatre, including the relamping all house fixtures, new aisle/egress lighting fixtures, and new backstage lighting. Dimming controls were added to existing lighting fixtures. JMB also furnished and installed customized floor boxes for dedicated power feeds to removable theater seats which provide power to seat lights. The lighting project also encompassed providing power to theatrical lighting controls.

Project Manager Patrick O’Neil commented on the unique challenges met by J&M Brown in the restoration of the historic building: “One of the most critical aspects of the project was the care that was required in our electrical work, so as to not damage the theatre’s antique interior facades, which features highly detailed custom plaster scrolling. All walls had been painted and authentic murals restored and the theatre features highly decorative original woodwork with historic original lighting fixtures that required significant repair as well as the installation of new circuitry.”

“Historic candeliers in the ceiling above the theatrical seating area were lowered on hoists for relamping and rewiring with great care, and 58 ring-lights surrounding the chandeliers in the ceiling were also rewired and relamped,” O’Neil said.

The historic restoration also entailed unstallation of new life safety lighting and related life safety equipment, which was carefully integrated into the overall layout of the spaces to have minimal impact on theatrical operations. It is to be noted that J&M Brown had upgraded the Colonial Theatre’s fire alarm system five years earlier.

Updating the Emerson Colonial Theatre’s A/V systems were also integral to the project. A new speaker system was installed by JMB with raceways and wiring running to the stage, backstage, back-of-house as well as front-of-house areas and back to multiple A/V network rack locations.

Another highlight of the project is the Emerson Colonial’s brand new theatre marquee. JMB installed all new power circuitry was installed for LCD screens on the marquee and GSMAT “Smart Glass” exterior display screen above the marquee. The Jamaica Plain-based contractor also furnished and installed multiple fixture types in the marquee projecting light above and below the theater entrance and custom-made exit signs.

Project Manager O’Neil and Assistant Project Manager Nelson Barrantes headed the JMB project team with installations provided by its skilled IBEW Local 103 field crew.

J&M Brown worked in close collaboration with Elkus Manfredi Architects, general contractor, Consigli Contracting, and owner Ambassador Theatre Group in meeting the project timeline. The NECA contractor started the project’s detailed planning phase in August 2017. Electrical renovations on the 8-month project began in November and the project was completed in June 2018. Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) proudly reopened newly refurbished Emerson Colonial Theatre, with the first performance of the world premiere pre-Broadway engagement of Moulin Rouge! The Musical on June 27, 2018. The show enjoyed an extended six-week run that ended on August 19.

ATG, the world’s number one live-theater company, has entered into a long-term lease agreement with Emerson College to operate the landmark venue, including investing several million dollars in much-needed capital improvements to the historic theater, and renewing the tradition of the Emerson Colonial Theatre as the birthplace of new Broadway musicals.