August 6, 2008

Wilbur Theatre Gets Its Acts Together

By Michael Marotta, Boston Herald

Aug. 6--More than two months after announcing its transformation into a music venue and new home of the Comedy Connection, the Wilbur Theatre appeared ready to open for business last night, if only temporarily.

After Tuesday night's scheduled show by UK pop princess Duffy and Wednesday night's with Gnarls Barkley, the historic 94-year-old Tremont Street theater will shut down again in order to complete handicap-access renovations.

The city granted the Wilbur's new lessee, Comedy Connection kingpin Bill Blumenreich, a temporary permit for the Duffy and Gnarls Barkley shows after he was forced to relocate concerts by Missy Higgins and Spiritualized as well as a comedy show by "The Soup" host Joel McHale to the Roxy nightclub on the other side of Tremont Street.

"The Architectural Access Board wanted some changes made," Blumenreich said Tuesday. "So we'll do some construction.

"I wasn't happy about it, but I'll give them everything they want and I won't have to deal with it anymore," he said.

Blumenreich took control of the Wilbur after signing a 20-year lease on the building in June. Mayor's office spokeswoman Dot Joyce said all businesses must reapply for entertainment licenses when it changes hands.

"We're just waiting for (the Wilbur) to get their permits set before the license is given out, which is standard practice," Joyce said.

Blumenreich expects the 1,200-capacity Wilbur to reopen by the end of this month or early September. He plans to fill the theater with live music on weekdays and top comedians such as Sarah Silverman on weekends.

"You name a big-time comedy act, nine out of 10 they'll be there," he added. "You'll see stuff in the next few weeks. It's really going to be an exciting place."

The Wilbur has been eyed for rock and pop concerts as Boston awaits the completion of the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street as well as a decision from City Hall regarding capacity limitations at the Roxy. Live Nation already has a busy season planned for the historic theater with shows booked so far including Gavin DeGraw (Sept. 4), Xavier Rudd (Sept. 11), Stars (Sept. 16), Mogwai (Sept. 22), Grace Potter (Sept. 25), Against Me! (Oct. 12), TV on the Radio (Oct. 13), Jonatha Brooke (Oct. 16) and Broken Social Scene (Oct. 26).


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