STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) — The best seat in the house at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island is on the ceiling.
Construction scaffolding rises above the 1,900 seats as crews climb multiple levels to work on the murals and fixtures. They scrape, shape, and paint the tiny details of the grand performance space by hand, inch by inch.
The 94-year-old theatre is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and restoration project. Artists began in July and are scheduled to finish by mid-November.
Doreen Cugno and Luanne Sorrentino operate the theatre. About two decades ago, they worked to save the abandoned performance space with their mother and community.
“We are bringing it back to its original glory. It’s something so important because it’s history,” said Cugno.
The project includes work on a 16-foot chandelier. Murals and walls are being remastered and repainted. Elaborate stencils on the ceiling have been reproduced.
Look closely, and you’ll see a dragon with wings, a nod to St. George, known as the dragon slayer.
“It’s going to be bright and gold,” said Sorrentino.
During the five-month project, a cabaret was created on the lower level. So far it has hosted 80 performances.
The grand opening night will be Nov. 18 with an ’80s concert.
Dr. Gracelyn Santos, a dentist on Staten Island, is on the theatre board.
“We marvel at the intricate design and beauty of it. To be able to walk up and see it and touch it, it’s a surreal moment,” she said.
The project was funded through state and federal grants obtained through Staten Island lawmakers in Albany and the congressional delegation.
After sitting empty for years, it first underwent significant infrastructure improvements in the 2000s. In the past, it has been a movie house, roller rink and nightclub.
It has also hosted big-name acts such as Tony Bennett, Joan Rivers and Jerry Seinfeld. Community acts, events and shows, including at Christmas, are also popular.