Restoration of the four-foot high lettering on the back of the Landers Theatre returns a part of Springfield’s history. “Landers Orpheum Theatre” designates the building as part of the preeminent Orpheum Circuit.
The Orpheum Circuit, established around the turn of the century and operating principally west of the Mississippi, was one of the two giants dominating vaudeville. These circuits booked acts which played in the theatres on that circuit. Vaudeville was America’s favorite pastime with millions of people attending shows each day. The Orpheum Circuit played in lavishly appointed theatres, and their shows included the best talent, costumes, props, and variety.
While most vaudeville circuits took their names from the men who ran them, the name of the circuit, Orpheum comes from the gods. Orpheus was the son of the Greek mythological god Apollo, patron of musicians and poets, and the Muse of all poetry, Calliope. Legend has it that Orpheus’ extraordinary musical gift could move mountains, still running water, and charm gods, humans, animals, and even inanimate objects. The name “Orpheum” means “house of Orpheus” and the Orpheum Theatres reflected that excellence.
The Landers opened September 18, 1909, with the production of “The Golden Girl,” which had just completed a run at the Century Theatre in St. Louis. It was sometime after that when the theatre became part of the Orpheum Circuit.
The Landers Orpheum Theatre designation symbolizes Springfield’s place in the evolution of American theatre as well as the grandeur of the facility itself. The reconstruction of this piece of local history has been made possible by a donation from Tom Baird and through the efforts of William Brandon Bowman.