In the 1920s, Thomas Lamb was the man to see if you were planning to build a theater. The designer of everything from the Orpheum in Boston to Madison Square Garden in New York, his designs fanned the flames of vaudeville and inspired so much admiration in silent-film stars that they almost spoke. So when theater impresario Sylvester Z. Poli decided to built his Palace Theater, he turned to the best. Lamb designed the Palace in a Second Renaissance Revival style, mixing Greek, Roman, Arabic, and Federal motifs into the grand lobby and domed auditorium. With such a regal foundation, Poli couldn't keep his wallet closed when decorating, and spent $1 million dressing the Theater for a king. And so well outfitted, the Theater had a good run, operating with force until 1987. Then the lights on the marquee went out, staying dark for the next 18 years. But with such undeniable beauty, it couldn't stay dark forever. A three-year, $30 million restoration and expansion brought the Palace into the 21st century, turning it into a 90,000-square-foot historical landmark. Yet now, as in the 1920s, the Theater's mission remains the same: to serve as an artistic, cultural, educational, and economic catalyst for the community.
The Long Island Comedy Festival, which won a thumbs-up from Newsday in 2009, sends laughing fits rippling through southeastern New York with showcases of some of the area's most accomplished comedians. The namesake festival spreads out across Long Island every summer, landing at venues that might range from an old-fashioned playhouse to a family amusement park. Many alumni return to perform year after year, making for a festive atmosphere that executive producer Paul Anthony likens to "a comedy party that the audience members have been invited to," rather than one that they sadly listen to through the floorboards. During the rest of the year, the organizers stay busy producing comedy series at other historic venues and exporting their team of comics to college shows.
Warner Theatre serves as profound evidence that grassroots efforts can make a difference in the arts. Opened by Warner Brothers Studios in 1931, the Thomas Lamb?designed cinema house served for more than 20 years as the area's top venue to gawk at the silver screen. Yet business declined with the rise of the television, and in 1955 a flood left the venue severely damaged. It was hardly a surprise, then, when the Warner faced foreclosure in 1981. But a non-profit, citizen-run group called the Northwest Connecticut Association for the Arts raised the $275,000 needed to rescue the theatre, and repaired the years' damages to the art-deco design. Today, more than 800 volunteer actors, musicians, designers, and crew members bask in the applause and gleefully thrown lorgnettes of an estimated 35,000-plus patrons each season.
For the 12th year in a row, the Boston Comedy Festival is pitting a diverse lineup of side splitters against each other for a $10,000 grand prize and the chance to coax giggles from top managers, agents and talent scouts. Laughter-packed preliminary rounds spotlight at least 10 comics who were carefully harvested from across the globe, either through an arduous audition process or pie fights with stern anti-humor magistrates. An assortment of comedic styles helps maintain a healthy concord of cackles, and special guest appearances during select rounds add celebrity fuel to an already roaring fire of revelry. Additionally, many past finalists and winners have landed on national television, granting festival audiences sneak peaks at budding jokesters before they become famous or sign lucrative contracts to perform in outer space.
Known for his appearances on Comedy Central and NBC's Last Comic Standing, Jim McCue draws the audience into a rib-tickling, year-ending performance at convivial Italian restaurant Bucca di Beppo. With an impish grin, McCue picks out and good-naturedly picks on guests in a freewheeling set. The chief joke-slinger and supporting comics wrap up the fun before midnight, granting partiers the option to visit a different bar or return home before their cars revert to pumpkins.
More than a dozen times?that's how often Treehouse Comedy Productions has been voted the "Best Comedy Showcase" by the readers of?Fairfield County Weekly. As the first full-time comedy showcase in Connecticut, Treehouse Comedy Productions has curated stunning selections of world-class standups for more than three decades. The heavy hitters in the Treehouse family tree include Rosie O'Donnell, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Chris Rock, Gilbert Gottfried, and Jerry Seinfeld, who once bid farewell to standup at Treehouse gig just before his TV show,?That's So Jerry!, became a hit. With roving locations at area restaurants, casinos, and bars, the arbiters of spit-takes continue to cull the sharpest cut-ups in the country for weekly showcases.