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August 20, 2013

Beverly theater revival has Gloucester flavor

BEVERLY — When promoter Pete Lally spoke with audience members who attended a show at the Larcom Theatre last spring, he got two reactions.

“Either they said, ‘I haven’t been here since I was kid’ or ‘I had no idea this was here,’” Lally said.

Entering its second century, the Larcom, built in 1912, is about to leap back into the limelight.

The rarely-used theater on a side street off Beverly’s downtown has been booked for a series of off-Broadway shows and concerts from October to May. And the The Larcom will also host three one-night concerts in October, November and December, through Gloucester promoters Peter and Vickie Van Ness of Gimmelive and gimmesound.com. The series kicks off Oct. 5 with the Gloucester-based Allen Estes Band.

Van Ness, who has worked extensively in booking musical acts in Gloucester and around the North Shore — and was the driving force behind the acclaimed 2010 Celebrate Gloucester concert on the city’s then-newly acquired I-4, C-2 site — said there is no other venue around like the Larcom, which has 450 seats and is “acoustically perfect.”

“The last row in the balcony is a better seat than pretty much any other seat in any venue around here,” he said. “It’s just a spectacular space.”

Advocates are hoping the shows will not only revive the former vaudeville theater but also add vibrancy to the downtown and boost the city’s economy.

According to Lally, more than 2,000 people attended the “Late Night Catechism” shows over 16 nights at the Larcom last April and May that served as a kind of trial run for the upcoming series of shows.

“We talked to a lot of people who came last year, and they had never been in downtown Beverly,” said Beverly Main Streets Executive Director Gin Wallace. “It’s another reason to bring new people downtown.”

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