The Goodspeed Opera House has endured as a majestic presence on the Connecticut River since it was built in 1876 by William H. Goodspeed, shipping and banking magnate and avid theatre lover. Since that time the Opera House has lived two lives: the first as a bustling center of commerce housing a theatre, professional offices, steamboat passenger terminal ,and a general store; and the second, after a period of neglect and deterioration, as a magnificent professional musical theatre fully restored in 1963 to its original splendor.
Goodspeed's history goes back to its opening night on October 24, 1877, when a repertory group presented the comedy Charles II and the farces Box and Cox and Turn Him Out. Featured performers of the day were brought to East Haddam by steamboat, many directly from theatres in New York.
After William Goodspeed's death, the theatre was eventually sold and used as a storage depot for the State Highway Department. The building was marked for demolition in 1958, but local preservationists became interested, and in 1959 the Goodpeed Opera House Foundation was organized to restore and reactivate the theatre. With the cooperation of the State of Connecticut and the support of donor-members of the Foundation, the Goodspeed Opera House was restored and rededicated on June 8, 1963, with the opening of the musical Oh, Lady! Lady!!
Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre, Goodspeed produces three musicals April through December on its mainstage. Nineteen Goodspeed productions have gone on to Broadway, receiving more than a dozen Tony Awards. Goodspeed was the first regional theatre awarded two Special Tony Awards, one in 1980 for outstanding contributions to the American musical and a second in 1995 for outstanding achievement for regional theatre.
Complete listing of past Goodspeed Musicals productions - click here.
The Norma Terris Theatre was inaugurated in 1984 by the Goodspeed Opera House for the development of new musicals. The theatre is named in honor of the actress Norma Terris, star of Jerome Kern's Show Boat and a devoted patron and trustee of the Goodspeed Opera House during her later years.
Miss Terris began her stage career as a young vaudeville performer, which led to her first major role in George M. Cohan's Little Nellie Kelly. She gained immortal acclaim as the creator of the roles of Magnolia and Kim in the original Florenz Ziegfeld 1927 production of Show Boat. After making two films for Fox, Married in Hollywood and Cameo Kirby, she starred for ten seasons at the Municipal Opera Company in St. Louis. Miss Terris first performed for Goodspeed audiences in the 1970 production of Little Mary Sunshine. She presided over the dedication of The Norma Terris Theatre, and in 1987 she established the Norma Terris Fund to expand the talents of individuals and to foster the vitality, excellence and diversity of musical theatre at The Norma Terris Theatre. A beloved friend of the Goodspeed Opera House, Norma Terris is remembered for enriching the art of musical theatre with her beautiful voice, fine acting and generous spirit.
The Norma Terris Theatre formerly was a factory built in the early 1900s for Susan Bates, Inc., which became one of the largest manufacturers of knitting needles and needlework accessories. In 1982, after locating to a larger facility, Susan Bates, Inc., donated its abandoned factory in Chester to the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation. The space was fully renovated as an intimate 200-seat theatre, and opened its doors on July 10, 1984, with the new musical Harrigan ’n’ Hart.