Diana Ross probably isn’t used to being the opening act.
The soul legend captivated a sold-out crowd at the grand reopening of the Kings Theatre in Flatbush on Tuesday night, but the main attraction was the majestic and painstakingly restored venue.
“The is the way theaters looked when we were young,” said Debra Summers, who came from Queens for the show. “It’s so nice to see when they restore them.”
Okay, so the 3,000 people who coughed up upwards of $100 and lined up around the block to see the septuagenarian sensation are probably fans.
Summers’s husband Ronald, who grew up in Brownsville and Boerum Hill, certainly is.
“The number one reason I’m here is Diana Ross,” he said.
Metal detectors formed a bottleneck at the lobby entrance, and offered a sobering reminder that gunfire still breaks out occasionally on the nearby blocks of Flatbush Avenue that are crammed with takeout restaurants and clothing stores. But from there, it was all glamor.
Show-goers walking through the lobby of the Flatbush Avenue venue for the first time were agog as they took in the high, ornamental ceilings and dramatic red drapes, all carefully made to appear as they did when the theater opened in 1929. One new feature of the revamped theater was the more-spacious seats, but no one was sitting down for Ross — she had the whole crowd on its feet within seconds of her grand entrance, striding down the aisle, belting out “I’m Coming Out.” Some fans surged down the aisle after her to dance in front of the stage, and the rest stayed standing and clapping.
Between a dizzying succession of costume changes, Ross delivered a set of hits from her solo career, and more by the Supremes, the legendary Motown trio she led for more than a decade. And, in true diva fashion, she banned professional photography from the show, so that the only record of the night would be blurry Instagram photos, and shots provided by her publicist.
Local mom-and-pop businesses worry that putting Flatbush on the map in such a big way will drive commercial rents through the roof, but one longtime Flatbush resident took the optimistic view.
“This is a gold mine for Flatbush Avenue,” said Maxi Eugene, who has lived in the area for four decades and is brother to local Councilman Mathieu Eugene. “Just look at how many people are here.”
Ross is the first act of a 2015 schedule packed with bold-faced names, including Gladys Knight, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and the Moscow Ballet.
“We’ve got a lot of footprints coming here from all over the city,” Flatbush Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte said. “We are really experiencing an explosion and enhancement of performing arts in Flatbush.”
The concert was the first big show at the palatial venue since it closed as a movie theater in 1977. Efforts to restore the Versailles-inspired treasure gained steam under former borough president Marty Markowitz, who went on his first date at the theater back in 1961. But the renovations didn’t begin until 2013, Markowitz’s last year in office, and only wrapped last month. Markowitz, who now works as an outer-borough tourism czar for the city, was among the host of local politicos who were visibly wowed by the theater’s reopening.
Also one of the loudest supporters of building Barclays Center and the still-in-progress Atlantic Yards mega-development, Markowitz said the heavy lifting he started as Beep is now done, by and large.
“The goal of the Kings Theatre has become a reality just like with the arena,” he said. “Basically all of my major projects have now come to fruition.”
Markowitz didn’t mention his bid to bring a casino to Coney Island or a soccer team to Brooklyn.
The theater is hosting a free walk-through on Saturday afternoon.
Community walk-through at the Kings Theatre (1027 Flatbush Ave. between Duryea Place and Tilden Avenue in Flatbush, www.kingstheatre.com). Feb. 7, noon to 4 pm.