Wortham Theater reopens 13 months after Hurricane Harvey

It’s been a staple here in Houston for decades until Hurricane Harvey hit, and in an instant the Wortham Theater was shutdown.   The Wortham had been closed for 13 months, but it is now reopen. We were one of the first welcomed inside to see the theater’s multi-million dollar makeover.

The theater is certainly ready for its big reveal after more than a year of sitting devastated by Hurricane Harvey. 

“I’m excited. I’m like a little kid in a candy store,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who admits the Wortham was so severely damaged he didn’t know if it could be repaired.  “It just seemed like it was going to be an insurmountable task.”

”There is all sort of electrical, mechanical, audio visual equipment down here that was fully submerged under water,” explains our tour guide who walked us around the theater, even in places the public normally doesn’t see.  On the tour, we learned the basement of the Wortham was flooded with up to 18 feet of water.

“Everybody where you’re standing at right now we would be fully submerged underneath (water),” the tour guide tells us.

”It’s been a lot of work to restore the amount of mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment that was damaged,” explains Sheila Turkiewicz, Sr. VP of Theater Operations for Houston First.

It took $100 million to get the doors open again.  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was instrumental in getting this home of the Houston Grand Opera and Ballet built back in 1987 and she’s here for its rebirth. 

“I feel like a mother to this institution. I love it. I love it. I love it,” the congresswoman says smiling.

Taking a look around the beautiful Wortham Theater, all of the amazing architecture is still here. The building is just as gorgeous as ever.  In fact, it seems not much has changed. 

“Then I feel like we’ve done our job because the idea here was to put it back the way it was,” adds Turkiewicz.

Hundreds of workers were displaced by Wortham’s closure from security to performers to box office employees.  Some took to the stage to be welcomed home as a small crowd gave them a standing ovation.

There's still months of behind the scenes work to be done but the Wortham Theater is now open, kicking off with a Wednesday, September 26, evening opera. “It’s Placido Domingo and the performance starts at 7 p.m.” explains Turkiewicz.