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Senior Scene: The Stadium Theatre

By Paul V. Palange

The preservation of sites that are of architectural, historical and decorative significance is important for society to properly honor its heritage and the individuals who contributed to it. One of the many locations area residents should be glad officials saved is the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre & Conservatory in Woonsocket.

Built in 1926, the theater at 28 Monument Square is one of the few remaining examples of the majestic Vaudeville Theater era in operation today, according to operators of the facility. The theater is ornate, and I always feel so relaxed and content after entering the building.

The Stadium Theatre was cited at the recent annual meeting of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council with the organization’s Excellence in the Arts Award, which was accepted by Daniel Peloquin, president of the board of directors of the theater. During the presentation, council President Robert Billington said large cinema and entertainment venues took business away from the Stadium Theatre, forcing its closure in 1985.

The building was vacant and was decaying until the late Francis Lanctot, a one-time mayor of Woonsocket, launched a campaign that raised $3 million to restore the theater that reopened in 2001. Since then, according to Billington, the Stadium Theatre has developed into a community center where famed international artists such as Liza Minnelli, Cher and George Winston grace the same stage as community theater, dance and music groups.

“It is the Stadium Theatre’s mission to offer the widest variety of high-caliber, live entertainment to guests at family-affordable prices. There are no harder working theater managers in New England,” Billington said. “We are so proud of their work and what is taking place at the Stadium.”

You might want to consider attending some upcoming performances at the Stadium Theatre or purchasing tickets as gifts for the holiday season. The venue is pretty senior-friendly, and as implied by the name of the facility, the theater has stadium style seating, which gives everyone in the audience an excellent view of the stage. Admission is affordable, and the staff books an array of tribute bands that attract boomers and older adults as well as family-oriented performances to which us old folks might want to bring the grandchildren.

On Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. the Led Zeppelin tribute band Get the Led Out (GTLO) is scheduled to perform. The Philadelphia-based group consists of six veteran musicians who recreate songs in all their depth and glory with the studio overdubs that Zeppelin never performed. If there were three guitars on a song recorded on an album, GTLO delivers three guitars on stage. GTLO members don’t wear wigs or feign English accents; they bring what the audience wants — a high-energy Zeppelin concert with an honest, heart-thumping intensity, according to Stadium Theatre Marketing Director Jordan Harris.

A few days later on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses are slated to take the stage, According to Harris, Prima and the Witnesses bring the wildest big band show this side of the 1960s to audiences. With all the antics and wild trumpet skills of his father, Louis Jr. resurrects hits such as “I Wanna Be Like You” and “Just A Gigolo.”

Prima and the Witnesses have been wowing crowds worldwide for more than a decade with a seamless blend of hard driving big band jazz, insanely danceable swing and, at its core, real rock ‘n’ roll, according to Harris. He states “this is no tribute act,” and that the band is its “own musical beast — thoroughly modern, laying down a blueprint for the future on the foundations of the past.”

“Elf the Musical Jr.” is on tap on Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 17 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. For more holiday joy, you can take in the Heritage Ballet’s production of the “Nutcracker” on Nov. 24 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 25 at 2 p.m.; the John Denver Tribute Christmas Concert on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m.; the Stadium Theatre Christmas Spectacular on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Holiday Pops by the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra with the Greater Milford Symphony Chorus on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.; and Home for Christmas with vocalist Greg Bonin on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Then there’s the new musical retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” According to Harris, the Broadway-style score by Steve Parsons and witty lyrics by John Popa breathe new life into the beloved tale. The Stadium staffer says the production “is even more epic, magical, and joyous than the story of Christmas redemption you thought you knew.”

Performances are Dec. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 2 p.m.; and Dec. 14, 15, 19, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. Also, there’s a school-time performance at 10 a.m. on Dec. 21, and tickets are just $10.

For more information about upcoming shows, call (401) 762-4545 or go online to www.stadiumtheatre.com.

Congratulations to Cathy Levesque, director and chief executive officer of the Stadium Theatre, and her staff for the Tourism Council award, and many thanks to all of the board of directors, volunteers, contributors and patrons for helping to keep the doors open and the lights on.

Take a bow.