Wellington's St James theatre originally took just nine months to build, but the effort to earthquake strengthen and refurbish the heritage building has been three years in the making.
The Herald was invited for a behind-the-scenes tour of the theatre ahead of Kiwi singer-songwriter Teeks performing with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra there tonight.
Those who have worked on the project were relieved to have made it to the finish line.
Wellington City Council head of property Peter Brennan said old buildings could be troublesome and challenging.
"The building continued to give up secrets and surprises as we travelled through. There were quite a lot of times where we thought we wouldn't make it, but with the great team we've had we've finally got here."
Even in the final hours before the public were due to flood through the doors, finishing touches were still being made this morning.
The theatre on Courtenay Place was first opened in 1912.
Recently it was found to be an earthquake-prone building and work started in April 2019 to bring it up to more than 67 per cent of the New Building Standard.
This strengthening work is mostly hidden away and not particularly noticeable.
For example, one corridor is slightly more narrow than it used to be because a large concrete wall of reinforced steel has been installed to take the load of any earthquake onto the foundations of the building to dissipate.
However, the viscous dampers are clearly visible across the windows at the front of the building.
They work like a shock absorber and have a piston that moves back and fourth inside them in an earthquake and are considered far less invasive than other technology.
Mayor Andy Foster said he was looking forward to seeing another chapter of the St James Theatre as a building fit for the next 100 years of arts and culture in the capital.
"The St James Theatre has played an integral part in our history over the past century. It accents old-world glamour with modern technology, and will once again bring dance, drama, opera, comedy, and music to Wellingtonians – and reclaim its status as an historic heritage treasure."
The $42 million earthquake strengthening work and refurbishment involved preservation and protection of significant heritage elements like the historic decorative interior.
The interior of the auditorium has been returned to its original colour scheme based off an old newspaper report.
An artist who painted the ceiling from the top of a large amount of scaffolding was described as a "virtual Michelangelo".
Other improvements include upgrades to staging, lighting, sound, air conditioning and rigging systems, plus fire protection, mechanical and electrical systems.
During its first couple of months following reopening, the St James will host La Traviata by the Wellington Opera, Cinderella by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and Les Misérables by the Capital Theatre Trust.
On Friday 1 July a theatre district celebration will be held in Wellington featuring a projection on the St James Theatre façade.
The following day there will be a public open day for the theatre and a street party celebration.