Where We Live: Royal Oak Music Theatre – Royal Oak, MI

Where We Live

Tucked between Ernie’s Pizza Café and Ronin Sushi Bar in the eclectic downtown district of the trendy Detroit, MI, suburb of Royal Oak is the Royal Oak Music Theatre, a historic yet often underestimated gem of a music venue.

Located a few blocks away from the blues and BBQ bar where bartender Meg White met the man then known as John Gillis, the theatre appears unassuming from the outside. There’s no indication that a surprisingly lavish theatre exists behind the one-way glass doors.

The venue was built in 1928 as a vaudeville and movie theatre, with a silent movie shown at its opening. The grand lobby still retains the original art deco design style, with colorful designs adorning the walls. The main room of the theatre, the balcony, and the gold leaf ceiling have since been painted and plastered over, though if you look closely you can still see sunray designs beneath the layers of red paint on the ceiling. Four rows of the original theatre seats remain in the rear mezzanine. The seats from the main floor have long since been removed, making room for live music patrons.

The ceiling of the theatre is lit with soft, red lighting, giving the theatre a very warm and traditional feel. The main bar near the entrance was updated in 2007, handcrafted by the theatre’s general manager and skilled carpenter, Justin Miller. The venue has the rich acoustics one expects from a historic theatre, with ongoing acoustic treatments to ensure the sound integrity. The building has been very well maintained and is often rented for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate events.

The theatre has gone through several reincarnations since its inception, including a stint as a rowdy weekend nightclub. After embarking upon a partnership with Worldwide Entertainment and AEG Live in 2004, the venue transitioned to its present state of a great place to see live music.

The marquis currently promotes the diverse upcoming shows of Hansen, Government Mule, and Xavier Rudd. Royal Oak Music Theatre books about 60 national acts a year, with performances in the past month alone including Ween, The National, and a two-night stint by Modest Mouse. Lady GaGa played the 1,700-capacity theatre in March 2009, just after she had reached her fame and was selling out much larger venues.

There are plenty of music venues in downtown Detroit, but many national acts and patrons are discovering one of Royal Oak’s best kept secrets. Whether providing a home for a relaxed, sit-down acoustic show or a lit up, dance-inspiring frenzy, the Royal Oak Music Theatre rocks the suburbs.

Royal Oak Music Theatre
318 W. 4th St.
Royal Oak, MI 48067

To view a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.


Follow Consequence