, Salem, MA

August 22, 2013

Our view: Larcom's revival a boost for Beverly's downtown, arts

The Salem News

---- — Good things keep happening in Beverly’s downtown.

Work continues on a new parking garage near the busy commuter rail station, and the state appears ready to move ahead on a $15.5 million plan to remake a two-mile stretch of Rantoul Street from the Beverly-Salem Bridge to the former Memorial Middle School. The weekly farmers market grows more popular by the week, and the Beverly Main Streets organization pulled off two highly successful block parties this summer.

Now comes news that the Larcom Theatre is once again ready to be a player in the city’s arts and entertainment life, with a busy slate of off-Broadway shows and concerts booked from October to May.

It’s a dramatic turnaround for the historic Wallis Street theater, for 25 years the home of the Le Grand David Magic shows. Those shows closed earlier this year after the death of company founder Cesareo Pelaez.

Members of the magic company are trying to sell their other property, the Cabot Cinema Theatre. While the fate of that building, a highly visible Cabot Street property, has attracted a lot of attention, it is the Larcom that is having an immediate impact on the downtown and surrounding businesses.

Promoter Pete Lally has booked six off-Broadway shows with multiple-day runs at the theater through his company Spectacle Management. Shows include “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy” and “Defending the Caveman.”

Lally, who has booked shows at the Lowell Auditorium and the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, was impressed by the Larcom at first sight. The theater, built in 1912, sports a horseshoe-shaped balcony, pressed-tin interior and a cozy, old-school feel.

“Whenever I walked in the first time and David (Bull, president of the theaters’ ownership group) turned on all the lights, I was like ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Lally told reporter Paul Leighton. “They did a nice job renovating it in the 1980s and it was relatively lightly used, so it’s in such good shape. So many of these theaters are gone. It’s a real treasure. There’s so much potential there.”

Peter Van Ness of Gloucester, who is booking three concerts at the Larcom this fall, called the 450-seat venue “acoustically perfect.”

A busy Larcom would surely be a boost to downtown bars and restaurants. A 16-night showing of “Late Night Catechism” in April and May brought more than 2,000 people to the city. Beverly Main Streets is already working to find ways to partner the theater with restaurants.

“It’s another reason to bring new people downtown,” Main Streets Executive Director Gin Wallace said.

Coupled with the revived North Shore Music Theatre, rescued by Bill Hanney in 2010 and currently in the middle of a strong season of shows, the revival of the Larcom bodes well for the city’s live entertainment scene.

“I think there’s room enough for everybody,” Bull told Leighton. “As long as you’re putting on quality entertainment, I think people will turn out.”

We agree.