The 142-year-old Cohoes Music Hall may look a little worn and weary, but Wednesday afternoon the place was given a new lease on life, compliments of the Palace Theatre in Albany.
Palace Theatre Executive Director Holly Brown and Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse were at the Cohoes Music Hall Wednesday to announce a three-year agreement between the two venues. The building is owned and maintained by the city of Cohoes.
Brown’s staff at the Palace will oversee management of the Cohoes landmark, and the plan is to have at least 60 events at the Music Hall for the 2016-2017 season, and 120 in year two.
“It’s an understatement to say that we’re beyond thrilled with the possibilities for this beautiful, beautiful theater,” said Brown. “The thing that excited me so much about this place is the feeling you get when you walk inside. It’s a step back in time, and everyone I spoke to about this project is so attached to this facility. There’s so much community pride involved in this theater, and it’s great to see that this space is as valued as it is by everyone.”
Morse, elected mayor this past November, was overjoyed by the prospect of joining forces with the Palace Performing Arts Center, the not-for-profit group that runs the Palace.
“There’s a buzz when we talk about the future of this place,” Morse said. “I’m excited and I’m not afraid to show it. We are partnering with one of the greatest entertainment venues in the country, the Palace Theatre, and that’s going to allow us to methodically and consistently fill the seats of this wonderful hall. This place is the city’s jewel, and I think this announcement is the biggest in the city’s history since the days when the music hall opened. That’s how excited I am.”
Also at Wednesday’s press conference was Owen Smith, who three years ago was director of Park Playhouse in Albany’s Washington Park when that group announced its own agreement with the Palace Theatre.
“We are thrilled to have the Cohoes Music Hall join us as a venue under the umbrella of the Palace Performing Arts Center,” said Smith, who now serves as Palace Theatre managing director and Park Playhouse producing artistic director. “We intend to light this building up, we intend to bring boots on the ground to Cohoes, and to the city’s restaurants and businesses. I’ve seen a number of shows here over the years, and I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful theater.”
While Albany’s Palace Theatre, which opened in 1931, seats around 2,800 customers, the Cohoes Music Hall can fit around 385 people.
“The scale of this house will allow us to do some more intimate programming,” said Smith. “We see a real mixture of events being held here, concerts, theatrical events, including three Park Playhouse productions, but we also want to engage with the community. We want as many community groups coming here and using this place.”
C-R Productions, run by Jim Charles and Tony Rivera, had called the Cohoes Music Hall home for 12 years before staging its final show, a children’s concert, in April of last year. There was also a musical concert featuring Bopitude last November.
“I don’t want to trip over yesterday,” said Morse, referring to C-R Productions. “Sadly, it didn’t go the way we hoped and that partnership came to an end. But there’s a light at the end of very dark tunnel, and Palace Theatre are the experts and we’re going to let them figure out the programming.”
The Cohoes Music Hall was built in 1874 by James Maston, a newspaper publisher. The venue has hosted a number of show business legends in its day, including Buffalo Bill Cody, John Philip Sousa and Jimmy Durante.
A previous version of this story gave the wrong seating capacity for the Palace Theatre, which can seat around 2,800.