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A Trip to Babylon - The Argyle Theatre awaits...
New York Theatre Guide celebrates live theatre in Long Island...
Ever felt like escaping Manhattan and the bright lights of Broadway for an evening? All too often we, as lovers of live theatre, forget the world outside of the geographically quite contained space between 41st and 54th Street - an unrivaled district of commercial opportunities, offering the highest production values. Off-Broadway, of course, is also a haven of creativity and boundary-pushing and off-off-Broadway opens up yet another realm of possibilities where imagination is championed over the size of the budget. But what about further afield?
Regional theatres have the same responsibilities as the aforementioned, however, they also have a crucial and unique contribution: they bring smaller communities together. They have the opportunity to regenerate a celebration of community spirit in potentially divided or disillusioned town populations and, perhaps even more importantly, engage the minds of local young people. One such institution is The Argyle Theatre in Babylon Villlage, roughly an hour's ride with the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station.
The building itself has a rich history of almost 100 years, dating back to 1921, where the 1,500-seat capacity venue opened as the Capitol Theatre, both for the benefit of local residents as well as summer tourists. It was re-christened the Babylon Theatre in 1925, after re-opening under new ownership, but would eventually be converted to a cinema and would operate as such for the next few decades. Its troubled path endured two seperate fires and several changes of ownership until it was split into a triplex cinema during the 1980's. Sadly, it would close its doors for good in 2014... Or would it?
Kudos to managing partners Mark and Dylan Perlman, who are now once again breathing life into this iconic Long Island culrural spot, after fighting and clawing for their theatrical vision for the past six years. In April of this year, their dreams became reality, launching an inaugural season of professional productions in the newly refurbished and renamed Argyle Theatre, with a 500-seat capacity, orchestra pit and balcony. Their hopes remain that live theatre will continue to re-establish Babylon Village as an attractive destination and a cultural anchor for the region, and judging by the productions they have already showcased and those that are yet to come, the future is looking bright.
Launching with the beloved 1950 Broadway musical Guys and Dolls, which scooped 5 Tony Awards in 1951 (including "Best Musical"), from May to June 2018, and following this with a couple of more modern offerings, as the 2003 Tony Award-winning "Best Musical" Hairspray played the venue from July to August and Peter and the Starcatcher (a 2012 Tony nominee for "Best Play") was staged from September to October, the inaugural season is off to a colorful and captivating start. Last night, its current production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame officially opened, utilising a choir of young people from the region, as well as performers from Actors' Equity to tell the epic story of the deformed bellringer Quasimodo and the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel and the lavish Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz score of the 1996 animated Disney classic. Performances continue through to December 30, 2018.
The final two productions of the season will be the 2007 Tony Award-winning "Best Musical" Spring Awakening (from January 17 to February 24, 2019) and Mel Brooks' 12-time Tony Award-winning "Best Musical" of 2001 The Producers (from March 14 to April 21, 2019).
May we encourage you to support the Argyle Theatre and support all your local theatres, wherever you find yourself in the state of New York or around the world. Get involved, celebrate the shared experience of live theatre and continue telling stories that can stay with you a lifetime.
For more information on The Argyle Theatre at Babylon Village, please visit the official website.
(Photo by Tom Millward)