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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Shea's 95th Anniversary

Michael Murphy talks to Peter Hall and me about the history of Shea's on WBFO this week.

I'm told the podcast to "Theater Talk" can be challenging to find on the WBFO website. For your convenience, here is the direct link to this week's program:

Shea's is the legacy of a bygone era. Its story is rich and even inspiring.

The venerable Wonder Theater first opened on January 16, 1926, exactly 95 years ago.

Shea's president, Michael Murphy, pays a visit to Theater Talk to tell us about the history of the theater, its might Wurlitzer organ (one of the largest in the world), and the great Michael Shea.

As summed up on WBFO:

"In the conversation, Michael Murphy speaks about a secret passageway that led from Michael Shea's office to the mezzanine, so that he could avoid encounters as his staff would say 'Oh, you must have just missed him.' (Murphy claims to have never used it.)

"The theater originally would combine live vaudeville acts interspersed with Hollywood movies. In answer to Peter's question 'So what killed vaudeville?' Professor of Theater History Anthony Chase added that during the Great Depression of the 1930s it was much more economical to show movies than to hire live performers (and Michael Shea would often pay above the going rate to get the top name stars of the day).

"And, in answer to the big question as to when Shea's would re-open and Broadway touring shows would return, Michael Murphy referred to Dr. Anthony Fauci who said that if we can get to 85% immunity, and if theaters had the right ventilation systems, then theaters could reopen in the Fall of 2021. So, start thinking like HAMILTON: 'I am not throwing away my shot.'


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