Watch out, Hollywood! Newark Symphony Hall is officially the venue for the new reality competition TV show “America’s Big Deal.” The show invites entrepreneurs nationwide to pitch solutions for Americans’ biggest problems every episode — but with a twist. Live viewers will choose the victor by purchasing their ready-made products through One Platform Commerce @ NBCU, NBCUniversal’s e-commerce platform. The contestant with the highest sales over the course of the buying window will secure the opportunity to work with the show’s retail powerhouses, making their ambitions a reality. The show will be hosted by Scott Evans, an Emmy-nominated journalist whose previous work includes “Access Hollywood.”
The Symphony Hall has a fascinating and occasionally eye-popping history, as it has been a cornerstone of Newark’s cultural scene since its construction in 1925. Originally called Salaam Temple, it was built by the Shriners, a branch of the Freemasons. This fraternity was previously known as the “Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine”, contributing to the Symphony Hall’s alias “The Mosque Theater”. The Hall has historically been a popular spot for musicians from around the United States. Marian Anderson, who sang outside the Lincoln Memorial after being barred from Constitution Hall, was the first Black American to perform at the hall. The biggest names in music over the past decades, including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Queen Latifah and Eric Clapton, have performed there as well.
One of the reasons behind the incredible popularity of the venue are its acoustics, which are comparable to Boston’s renowned Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. Built at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Hall features neoclassical architecture complete with dramatic marble columns, a gleaming crystal chandelier suspended above its theater and numerous Greek and Egyptian symbols, likely commissioned by the Shriners. Its primary concert hall boasts 2,800 seats, while the black-box Newark Stage contains 250, alongside several other venues such as the Terrace Ballroom and the Studio. The Symphony Hall’s elegant vintage appearance combined with its modern amenities make it a standout candidate for hosting audiovisual events.
Although the Hall has had an impressive track record through nearly a century’s tumult, the recent pandemic severely constricted the expected revenue of the theater. As such, the decision to host “America’s Big Deal” at the Hall was a beacon of hope to many. “Part of Newark Symphony Hall’s mission is to leverage our venue for economic development, including creating jobs for Newark residents,” explained the Hall’s President Taneshia Laird. The TV show airing will allow stage staff and production assistants to work again, in addition to promote the location to plays and musicals looking for a venue. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was also highly enthusiastic about the opportunity, asserting that the show “will not only boost recognition of our city’s most historic performing arts venue, but it will also serve as an economic development tool by creating jobs for local residents.” In the midst of the pandemic, this program will allow Symphony Hall to get a head start on recovery and adapt itself dynamically to new forms of entertainment. Tune in on Thursday nights to catch the show!