Spiderman: A Case History

Spiderman: A Case History

Our exhaustive work at what is now called the Lyric Theatre was something that came about as an offshoot of notable press coverage we received from This Old House. Early in 1995, we had been awarded a contract with the Lucas Theatre in Savannah Georgia when we were contacted by the PBS television series with a request for an interview. This critically-acclaimed, on-site segment was followed by an impressive five page spread in their magazine.

Shortly following, Francois Furieri was to meet with the New York State regarding what would eventually be the largest set design in Broadway history. During this meeting, he distributed these magazines and received his Master Plasterer designation, given honorable mention in the New York Times as well. A series of further meetings took place, and Iconoplast was approved. I would later also become a contractor and main consultant for plaster preservation for the New York State.

It began as a dismantling and reconstruction of the Apollo and Lyric Theatres for reinstallation into a new structure; historic buildings on their own merit — the Lyric was originally built in 1904, the Apollo in 1920. Francois would eventually become the lead consultant for the Spiderman production almost 15 years later. In its entirety, this project was part of the largest American urban renewal movement since World War II, the new 42nd Street.

Following here is a progression of this momentous project from its inception:


42nd Street, New York, NY

Painstaking removal of the entire theatre: proscenium arch, flanking arches, the private balcony opera boxes and fascia, part of the sail vault and the 20-ton center-ceiling dome. To comply with New York State draconian guidelines, we removed the original plaster from the Lyric Theatre (beaux art style) and the Apollo (Adam style). No copies or mold were ever made; only the original plaster was to be reinstalled.


Francois’ position as a contractor was instigated to execute the restoration construction work, the first of its kind ever done. The original plaster was relocated successfully, including the enlarged proscenium and sail vault. Dozens of architectural elements were cut and transported to a warehouse in New Jersey to begin the meticulous restoration of plaster off site: preservation, stabilization and paint removal. What was left of the building was completely demolished, except for the original façade of the Lyric.


A new structure was created, drawing on the blueprint of these two historic buildings. The Lyric and Apollo combined would become a single 1,800 single seat Broadway musical house, renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. (It was originally named the Hilton Theatre, and the Foxwood Theatre, then the Lyric Theatre). The challenge was to maintain the original geometry in constructing the proper extensions. The original theatre fabric removed from the Apollo nine months earlier was salvaged, consolidated and carefully incorporated into the new Ford Center. The elements of reinstallation included the oval dome of the Apollo’s main auditorium, three round domes and four private boxes, a wider sail vault and a taller proscenium arch extending eight feet high and 14 feet high, along with its flanking arches.


A series of preliminary meetings took place with Francois Furieri and the Spiderman production team, out of which a proposal to the New York State was formed. This proposal included a plan to remove all the main features of the theatre house such as the centre sail vault and mural, the proscenium arch, the proscenium cove and four private boxes. The entire sail vault and its connectors to the suspension system had been severely compromised due to the ravages of sound hoisting system problems. The project was approved on the condition that Francois be the lead consultant in charge.


A massive removal procedure for the Spiderman Production was instigated. The stabilization process included extensive repair and consolidation of severely damaged historic ornamental plaster and attachment of all connectors to the structural steel and suspension grids. Francois Furieri was the main consultant for this project.


The Spiderman production closes and the reinstallation process for plaster removed began. A new acoustical plaster system in the sail vault and proscenium cove was created as the only change made to the theatre stage. The rest was restored in its original condition (the centre sail vault, the mural and the proscenium arch). The theatre re-opened in full capacity with a production called On the Town, a great Broadway revival.