Can you imagine what life will be like 100 years from now in 2116? Forbes predicts that we’ll have underwater cities, colonize space, take virtual holidays, play with hologram pets, and use “in-home medical scanning capsules.” It may all sound like Star Trek, but we already started 3D printing things. It’s not a huge stretch to assume we’ll be replicating food soon. What about a hundred years ago? Our technology now must sound outlandish. On Sunday, April 24, 2016 the Regent Theatre celebrated it’s centennial gala and it was a blast from the past. Performers, staff, and guests were encouraged to wear period costumes circa 1916 and had an old-fashioned good time.
WBZ Radio’s Jordan Rich played host for that night. He observed that there was a Model T parked out front and wondered how someone got it in that spot. He joked that the parking in Arlington has always been bad. He received a few laughs for that quip, but the truly touching comment was when he said that we need more art in our lives. Everyone clapped. In honor of their contribution to the arts community, the Arlington board of selectmen declared April 24, 2016 to be Regent Theatre Day.
With an evening full of unexpected surprises, the first one came from an impromptu performer. Comedian Tony V interrupted the speech (thanking local non-profits and businesses involved with the Regent) to do a little stand up. He laid down some jokes about Canadian cuisine and catered to the crowd with some age-based humor. He said he’s performed at the Regent before and owes some of his following to the place.
The first vaudeville-inspired act was the “Musical Chairs” routine by the Legacy Dancers. The tap dancers were tripping each other on purpose, performed something that looked like the Charleston, did some spins and strutted their stuff. The next act was a duo. The Airborne Comedians are Dan Foley and Joel Harris. They juggled clubs as most jugglers do, but they threw a football into the mix and then at the crowd. The guy sitting two seats from us caught it. Dan and Joel were a little cornball, but in an endearing way, much like their fashion (button down tribal flame design shirts from the early 2000’s). They threw “this” and caught “that” (see photo slideshow) and even threw a birdbath (unfortunately not pictured). They showed us various techniques for juggling, but we were most impressed with the back to back juggling style. The third act to grace the stage was Jerry Bisantz as Groucho Marx. He sang and danced with little jokes.
While she can’t walk on water, Chloe Walier can walk on champagne (bottles). She came out on stage with a suitcase. She opened it up and showed us a bottle of champagne. She modeled it like Vanna White. Then you realize it’s a suitcase full of these bottles. She must have had fun collecting these props! She demonstrated her ability to balance on a bottle, while in heels. Keep in mind, some of us can’t stand being in stilettos more than a few minutes, nevermind acrobatics. Then she lines them up and walks across several, even skipping bottles or intentionally knocking them down after she passes them. Can you imagine her doing her bottle walk as a field sobriety test? She even balanced a bottle on top of her head while standing on a bottle. How does one discover this talent?
Alex the Jester (Alex Feldman) had a unique act. When clowns pull on their tie, it is usually a gag involving an extra long handkerchief that seems to have no end. When he did this, it was actually attached to a three breasted bra. It was like something the character in “Total Recall” would have. He can play two renaissance recorders with separate tones…and then adds a third. He could even hit some notes with his nose. Alex the Jester reminded us of Mr. Bean, but he does a decent Nixon impression when he has an extender in his mouth. For his last feat, he steadied his recorder on his nose which was in turn, balancing a champagne glass. He simultaneously pulled out a smaller recorder and played some tunes while doing a little jig dance.
As for Busty Keaton, she provided burlesque that was still mostly family friendly. Her facial expressions and movements were following with the lyrics of the song. The last Vaudeville act was Bob the Magic Guy and his assistant Susan. He performed a “Houdini” escape trick with locks and chains, hiding his technique with a velvety bag.
After the intermission, Gary Adelson talked about an upcoming raffle that could reap many benefits to the winner. It includes a trip to the The Venetian in Las Vegas to stay in a suite worth $15,000 a night, $500 cash, limo service from the airport, and so forth. He said to stay tuned for more information coming to their Facebook page. Tickets are anticipated to be $19.16 a piece. The proceeds will go towards renovating the theatre.
Leland Stein clarified more about the renovations in a different article on byteclay.com:
“The formation of the ‘Friends of the Regent Theatre (FORT)’ which will enable us to apply for grants to restore some of our original features like the gold proscenium arch. Most of the gold proscenium arch was hidden by an ugly dropped ceiling put in during the energy crisis of the ‘70s and was part of the original tin ceiling and chandelier above. We’ll continue to revive and program the ‘Regent Underground Theatre (RUT),’ a flexible space or black box theater formerly a bowling alley and billiards hall below the main theater. We’ll create a connecting stairway between the two venues, an auxiliary dressing room, and more.”
The last feature of the centennial anniversary was a special screening of the silent movie “Rags.” It was surprisingly epi-friendly for an older film. There weren’t inconsistencies with the timing of the reel itself. This film was recently restored by the Mary Pickford Foundation and was the same movie that was shown on opening night in 1916. We must mention that piano player that accompanied “Rags” was very talented. He gave various sound effects during the other parts of the show and Jeff Rapsis even played through the intermission.
The Regent Theatre has a rich history in Arlington and continues to be known as an eclectic venue. You can view upcoming events here. May it stand another hundred years and more.