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Arts & Culture

Revitalized downtown a boost for Curtain Up!

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Since several theaters have already opened up their schedules, tonight's Curtain Up! isn't truly the beginning of the theater season, but it will be a great party anyway. The Theater District is different this year, not just because cars will be coming on Main Street soon but because there are a lot of people living within walking distance. More and more people interested in theater are coming to town to work on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus a couple of blocks away.

"People able to get down here, people living in the neighborhood, all of that becomes a kind of critical mass. When we hit it, it's going to really be great for all downtown, the Theater District in particular," said Neal Radice, Alleyway Theatre executive director and Theatre District Association President.

Irish Classical Theatre's Vincent O'Neill says there are several thousand people living within 250 yard walking distance of his theater, while there used to be just several hundred.

"When I came here 25 years ago...coming out onto Main Street, it was empty. You could shoot moose out there," O'Neill says, of the old days. "Now there's a community here, people living here, traffic coming back onto Main Street. There's a real reinvestment and revitalization of the downtown corridor."

Bijou Grille co-owner Michael Militello says cars out front on Main Street will make a lot of difference.

"Look at the streetscape here and you see that we can't wait for people to see it in use, can't wait for a car to drive down the 700 block with a couple of young men whose mothers and fathers haven't been down here for 30, 40, 50 years and be able to drive right up and see that big Shea's marquee there and see the Bijou across the street and finally say, 'Oh! that's where the Bijou is,'" Militello says.

The black tie gala in Shea's kicks off at 5:30 p.m. and continues through a big dinner, then it's off to the theaters. Afterwards, there will be a party on Main Street running through 1 a.m. It's all free for the 33rd edition of Curtain Up!.


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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