What’s Happening at the Stanley?
By George Anderson
Tues, Dec. 6, 1977
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette page 8
Pat DICesare, who admits to being a novice in the theater business, is sitting with the city’s largest movie house under him these days.
Pittsburgh’s most successful promoter of rock concerts, together with his partner Rich Engler, has moved his office to the Stanley Theater.
In a small room on the second floor of that cavernous theater, he sits behind an antique-looking desk without drawers in a high-backed chair that slightly resembles a throne.
Officially, DiCeare and Engler don’t own the Stanley yet, although they have signed a letter of intent to purchase the 50-year-old building and have made a down payment of $50,000.
The deal for the purchase of theater has dragged on for months through legal and financial complexities, but DiCesare and Engler have signed a lease with owners Cinemette Corp., Pittsburgh, that gives them exclusive operation of the theater until the deal is closed for the purchase. The purchase price should be around $1.3 million.
“We don’t want the Stanley to be known just as a rock house,” DiCesare said. “We could probably survive with just rock shows, such as Hall and Oates, who should give us two sellouts tonight and tomorrow.
Actually, having the Stanley for smaller attractions and booking bigger ones into the Civic Arena gives us a good arrangement. It helps us to deal with agents and artists because we have both size houses. “For example, Olivia Newton-John wants to come here, but she wants to play the arena. I think she’d be better off in the Stanley. In fact, she’d sell out there.”
DiCesare’s experience as a pop music promoter should make the Stanley an increasingly important outlet in this area of music. But, he doesn’t want to confine his operation to such attractions.
Will This bring the Stanley into competition with Heinz Hall?
“I want to make the Stanley more like the ‘people’s house’,” DiCesare said. “Heinz Hall is an excellent operation, but I want the Stanley to be closer to the average person.
“That’s why I want to go more toward a middle-of-the-road operation. We’ve signed Johnny Mathis already for May 20 and 21. Andy Williams will be coming back. We’ll go after the Michel Legrands and so on.
“But, I don’t want to stop there. I have an idea about luring some of the big Las Vegas superstars here. What about a million dollar package with people like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Tom Jones?
“Maybe they wouldn’t be interested, but I can offer them more money than anybody in Pittsburgh has ever offered them.
“We can put a Don Rickles together with a singer and he’d be good for two or three nights. An Englebert Humperdinck should play here.”
Another aspect of entertainment that DiCesare wants to establish at the Stanley is children’s theater.
The first such presentation will be a live production of Victor Herbert’s musical fantasy “Babes in Toyland” Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 and 5 pm.
It’s performed by Allegro Productions, an Actors Equity company of 20 performers who tour year-round through the U.S.
COproducer Shirley GOdlberg, known as the Storybook Lady, introduces the shows to children, talking directly to them and leading them in a singalong.
“Legitimate children’s theater is a wonderful thing, and we’re very anxious to play Pittsburgh,: Mrs. Goldberg said.
“Performing for children is more difficult than performing for adults. You must capture the audience immediately or you’re lost.
“Many children have never been to a live show before and actually don’t know the protocol of theater. Many come in thinking it will be a movie.”
“That’s why we want to establish that the Stanley is a live house,” DiCesare said, “although we have opened up five weeks starting Dec. 23 for Cinemette to play the film of “The Choir Boys.”
Another of DiCesare’s plans for the theater is a Broadway series of touring shows. He realizes that such presentations require considerable work and risk, including a box-office staff.
Yesterday, for instance, as I stopped by the Stanley to talk to him, I noticed a woman in the lobby who wanted to purchase tickets for “Babes in Toyland.” Officially, tickets are available at the National Record Mart on Forbes Avenue and at the Stanley, although the box-office was temporarily unoccupied.
“For security, we’d have to make structural changes in the box office to operate it fulltime,: DiCesare said. “Right now, we’re starting to get the utility bills down, clean up some of the backstage areas and repair the roof.
“It’s a great old theater and I thnk there is still a place for it in Pittsburgh entertainment. But, it’s really turning into a 24-hour-a-day job.”