Live entertainment, gorgeous concert venue, stand-up, holiday events
Though its grand marquee and lively shows make The Midland seem right at home in Kansas City’s hip Power & Light District, the Midland Theatre is a unique anomaly in the newly developed downtown. The majority of bars, shops and restaurants in the Power & Light District were erected in this century and purposed exclusively to be a part of a bold new entertainment district. If its Renaissance Revival exterior wasn’t enough of a dead giveaway, the ornately decorated lobby interior seems about a century away from the young new-ness across the street.
The Midland has been around since 1927, built specifically for silent motion pictures and stage performances. When the building opened as the Loew’s Midland Theatre in 1927, it was another of downtown’s grand movie palaces, its red furnishing and endless gold leaf charming audiences with old-world elegance. The Midland was the third largest theater in the United States. It also had the first complete cooling, heating and ventilation system in any theater nationwide. The Midland Concert Orchestra played to a full house on opening night—every one of the 4,000 seats filled with gawking onlookers.
When the era of movie palace prominence had ended, though, the Midland experienced a series of identity crises—a problem that has plagued a number of these buildings nationwide. In 1961, Midland Stadium was opened as the home of the Kansas City Stars, a professional bowling team—and league—that lasted less than a year. To create the alley, seats were removed and the alleys cut into the stage. Movies returned to the Midland, then eventually live performances, and as the surrounding neighborhood fell out of favor, the Midland, since 1977 a registered National Historic Place, held on.
After renovations that coincided with the construction of Power & Light, The Midland reopened as a revamped concert venue, bringing big names and packed crowds to meticulously restored Baroque hall. It hasn’t just retained its majesty because of proximity to the booming redevelopment. Their on-the-mark programming has a finger to the same pulse that gets the city’s young professionals flocking to the Power & Light district every weekend.
From older country singers like Lyle Lovett to stand-up comedians to the local alternative radio station’s holiday shows, the Midland is a truly chameleon venue. You’re as likely to see a crowd of glow-sticked rave chicks rolling into the lobby as you are their suited-up fathers. In this way, the Midland has truly adapted and evolved its historical heritage. Like the grand movie palace it once was, the Midland offers Kansas Citians from all walks of life a chance for royal entertainment treatment.