The Crusader Newspaper Group

Curtain call for Star Plaza Theatre

Gary Crusader staff report

The show will soon end for the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville. The host to many world-famous entertainers, including Whitney Houston, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, the Star Plaza Theater will meet the wrecking ball after nearly four decades of operating in Northwest Indiana.

Merrillville-based White Lodging Services Corp, on Tuesday announced it will close theatre in May 2017. The company will also close the adjacent Radisson Hotel in January. Both buildings are outdated and would be too expensive to renovate, according to White Lodging officials.

White Lodging plans to build a more upscale, nationally branded hotel with 215 rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including an 8,000-square-foot ballroom to host weddings and other big events. Star Productions, the theatre’s booking company, will book concerts to other venues according to a press release. Events that have been scheduled at the Star Plaza will continue through spring. The O’Jays and Country singer LeAnne Rimes, are some of the artists who will perform at the facility in the coming months.

Charlie Blum, CEO of Star Productions, said in a press release that after surveying the hotel, the company concluded that the aging building would not be able to accommodate its plan.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have come to the conclusion that the Star Plaza, which has been a cultural mecca for Northwest Indiana and Chicago area residents since 1979, must close its doors,” Blum said in statement. “We all recognize what the theater means to our community and, of course, it has played a huge role in my life and the lives of dedicated, hard-working staff.”

Bruce White, founder of White Lodging Services Corp., who also serves as Chairman of the Board, said he was “saddened” by the pending closing of the theatre.

“The theater has always been successful, thanks to the hard work of Charlie and his team, and in fact, this most recent season was one of our most successful in our history, which makes this decision to raze the building even harder,” White said in a statement. “I know how much it has meant to the community, our patrons throughout the Midwest, and so many in the entertainment industry during its 37 years of operation, and I personally have spent countless hours enjoying incredible performances at the theatre.”

The Radisson became a landmark hotel known for its indoor waterfall and the Region’s premier show-business venue. For many Blacks in Gary and Chicago, the Star Plaza holds fond memories. The 3,400-seat facility was built in 1979. The theatre’s ruby red interior over the years became a familiar scene for spectators who watched many stars light up the venue for 37 years. They include B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Patti Labelle, Jamie Foxx, Diana Ross and Luther Vandross.

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