BEVERLY — In the midst of construction and concerts, The Cabot theater is focusing on the community as it enters 99 years of entertainment on the North Shore. 

The tagline as it prepares for the centennial: "It's Your Cabot."

"Our brand really is that we have something for everybody," said The Cabot's Executive Director J. Casey Soward. "This community is at the heart of everything we do."

On Dec. 8, The Cabot celebrated being one year away from a century old. A mile marker that not only signifies the theater's adaptability in an ever-changing city, but also telling of how it's working to preserve the past amidst these changes. 

"We want to be open every day for something because this place is such an anchor for downtown," said Soward. 

The Cabot has scheduled an eclectic line-up for the year ahead, including musicians such as Postmodern Jukebox, performances of The Nutcracker and Mario the Magician, and comedians Cash Cab's Ben Bailey and Bobby Collins. On Jan. 23, An Evening with Patti Austin will kick off a series of centennial celebrations throughout 2020.

But in addition to a long list of performances and film screenings, The Cabot collaborates with local organizations to support those that live on the North Shore.

"A lot of people think that we are just a concert venue, but we are so much more than that," Soward said. "We are here to be whatever the community needs us to be."

A few of those things include an after-school program for students from Beverly's Northshore Recovery High School, space for college events, and the installation of new murals to support artists.

"It is nice seeing different events that are happening and does help with business here as well," said Amy Chan, a barista at Atomic Cafe. As a graduate from Montserrat College of Art, Chan remembers attending the theater to view her college's annual animation events that had been hosted in the historic building. 

On top of the planned programming in 2020, The Cabot is looking to complete a four-year project to renovate and restore the historic building.

The total budget for all the renovations is $6.8 million. 

"It was a mess," said Soward, recalling the decrepit state of the building. "The staff were taking plastic seats and putting them in seats that had been missing cushions, we had a clown ramp that people would get hurt on, plaster was falling out of the ceiling and hitting patrons, and we had bats flying around."

"But we loved the place," Soward continued. 

In January 2016, a $700,000 project was completed that included securing fire escapes that met all building codes and ensured safety, installation of a digital cinema projection system, along with a state-of-the-art theater sound system, renovation of the marquee, and installation of 350 new seats on the first floor and viewing platform on the orchestra level. 

A year later, in December 2017, the theater budgeted $260,000 for the Streetside Bar at The Cabot.

In January 2018, $2.14 million was spent on upgrading the infrastructure, including a new energy-efficient HVAC system, reinforcement of the roof, and a new sprinkler system. 

"HVAC allowed us to do more concerts in the summer," Soward said.

At the beginning of this year, 484 balcony seats were replaced, several opera boxes in the balcony were also restored and reopened for donor seating, the sound system was upgraded with new speakers, and a new stage lighting system was installed.

Looking ahead, Soward is hoping to complete all the renovations in 2020. 

"We are constantly fixing it up as we go," he said. 

Work that has yet to be completed, however, includes facade and roof work ($750,000), redoing the lobby and making it all ADA-compliant ($1.4 million), and some artist and patron amenities such as renovating the restrooms and adding surround sound for the theater ($650,000).

John LaPorta, the facility manager, has seen the theater through a lot, having worked at the 286 Cabot St. address since 1979.  

"It is a great thing to see the place still going," he said. "It is a jewel and is worth the effort."

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@northofboston.com

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