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Chester citizens seek to revive the historic Carol Theater

A full house of 300 people attended a vaudeville show held last September in the Carol Theater of Chestertown in conjunction with the first-ever Rum-Runners’ Weekend. Partially due to the success of this event, an initiative to resuscitate the historic theater has been launched, with a vision of offering concerts, shows, musicals and other performing arts onstage after it is refurbished.
Photo by Brandon Himoff

A full house of 300 people attended a vaudeville show held last September in the Carol Theater of Chestertown in conjunction with the first-ever Rum-Runners’ Weekend. Partially due to the success of this event, an initiative to resuscitate the historic theater has been launched, with a vision of offering concerts, shows, musicals and other performing arts onstage after it is refurbished. Photo by Brandon Himoff

— An effort is now underway to revive the Carol Theater, which for decades in the mid-1900s was the primary entertainment venue for the rural town.

The Tri-Lakes Business Alliance, a group of local citizens who seek to jumpstart local commerce and culture, is leading the initiative. Alliance member Al Tolomeo, a jazz drummer and retired restaurant owner, has been spearheading the concept.

Tolomeo said this week he first thought of reviving the Carol Theater last September, when he saw the Carol Theater packed with citizens turning out for a vaudeville show held in conjunction with Rumrunners’ Weekend, which was planned and sponsored by the Alliance.

“Bringing shows and concerts back to the Carol Theater could revitalize the whole town,” Tolomeo said March 31. “The theater might need some upgrading, but it’s a classic venue, and it would be quite a stimulus for the area.

Tolomeo said that when the Alliance has held events in town, the businesses have prospered and hundreds have enjoyed the ambiance. Holding performances at the theater would accomplish both, he said.

Tolomeo has discussed the idea with his friends including Jonathan Newell who has established the Hudson River Music Hall in Hudson Falls and is seeking to resurrect the Strand Theater there. Newell has been offering advice on the concept of revitalizing the Carol Theater which decades ago was a busy movie theater that also hosted stage shows.

He said a non-profit organization could be formed to obtain grant money to revitalize thetheater, as well as book shows and operate the hall, as Newell has accomplished in Hudson Falls.

“Jonathan Newell has expertise and contacts — he knows the right path, and he’s been helpful,” Tolomeo said.

In the meantime, the Alliance could book plays, concerts, musicals and various performances at the theater to test the waters, Tolomeo said.

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