BEVERLY — The Cabot is holding a birthday celebration Saturday night, with proceeds going toward renovations to the historic theater in advance of its 100th anniversary extravaganza Dec. 8, 2020.
Casey Soward, executive director, said the 99th birthday bash promises to be magical. It will include a tribute to Le Grand David, the magic company that performed at the theater for 37 years; the non-profit’s biggest benefactor, Steven B. Dodge, who in January died at age 73 in a bicycle accident in Florida; and all who have helped The Cabot find its niche as a live concert venue and moviehouse.
Saturday’s party runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Magicians and folks toting hawker boxes filled with all sorts of goodies will move through the theater. “There will be a Vegas-like magical vibe at the Cabot that night, and the theater will look a whole lot different than it does usually,” said Soward, who at age 18 worked at the equally historic Orpheum Theatre in Boston.
There will also be a performance by magician Michael Carbonaro of “The Carbonaro Effect” at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. “He’s very funny, and appeals to both kids and adults,” said Soward.
“So many people on the North Shore have fond memories of La Grand David, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s longest-running stage magic show,” said Soward.
Last year, a star-studded fundraising concert, “Honoring Bessie Smith: The Empress of the Blues,” celebrated the theater’s history and kicked off a $3 million fundraising campaign that renovated the balcony and updated the sound system.
“We’ve accomplished monumental things in a short amount of time, which is a credit to our board of directors and the community” said Seward.
This year, magic is the theme, and funds raised will pay for renovations to the historic lobby and installation of an elevator. “The dropped ceiling in the lobby was put in in the 1950s. That will be removed and replaced by a grand ceiling. We will also build a new box office, where people can buy tickets outside, and new concession stands in the lobby.”
Soward teased that “vision” will be the theme of the 2020 celebration. “I won’t elaborate, but some very special things are planned.”
The Cabot sat empty for some two years, starting in 2012 shortly after the death of Cesareo Pelaez, who owned the building and guided Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company. His family kept it open as a second-run moviehouse for a while, and eventually a local businessman bought the building to keep it out of developers’ hands. The nonprofit now owns the building.
“There used to be 20,000 of these majestic theaters in America,” added Soward. “Today, there are only a couple of hundred with only a few dozen still operating.”
The theater opened on Dec. 8, 1920 as a palace for vaudeville and silent movies and it was hailed as “the most impressive auditorium of its size east of New York.” Known then as The Ware Theater, it shared a distinguished architectural pedigree, designed by the architects of Boston’s Athenaeum and Olympia Theater and Dorchester’s Strand Theater. For its first 40 years, it served as a center of community life for downtown Beverly.
The venue was purchased in 1960 by E.M. Loews, which renamed it the Cabot Cinema. A transformation began in 1976 when it was purchased by Le Grand David.
In October 2015, the new Cabot board brought Soward on board. Nov. 15 will mark its fifth year as a non-profit.
There’s one more big event happening at The Cabot this fall that isn’t on the venue’s schedule. Soward and his fiancée, Jacyn Tremblay, are getting married there Nov. 17. “As far as we know, this is the first wedding ever held here. We met through the Cabot, so it’s perfect,” he said, with a smile.
Bill Brotherton can be reached at email@example.com.