Many of top magicians in thee world reside and work in our area.

This page is sponsored by one of our own magicians Dick Brooks (Bravo the Great), who is one of America's best magicians for all kinds of events from children's birthday parties for all kinds of kids, even those of celebrities, to walk around and stage shows for families, adults and corporations.
Go to magicianmagicianBravo the magician, one of the countries top magicians and entertainers. (570) 383-1821

ENTERTAINMENT & SHOWS IN SCRANTON AND THE POCONO MOUNTAINS IN THE POCONOS:

Currently the two longest running shows in our area are The Houdini Tour & Magic Show with live magicians and Psychic theater's presentation of "Haunted, Mind Mysteries & THE Beyond who sponsor this page

Early theater history in Scranton.

and the Wilkes Barre, Pocono region

Scranton - Wilkes Barre early years.

There was a time when Scranton was the 37th largest city in the United States. Vaudeville acts that would travel from one major town to another for 52 weeks a year would come to Scranton or Wilkes Barre for one or two of those engagements.

Big money brings in big time vaudeville. Houdini & others.


Big time vaudeville acts in those days traveled to a different major city each week of the year. Since Scranton/Wilkes Barre was a major city at that time, that made us a major vaudeville stop. The biggest stars, who even today are household names, appeared here at the height of their careers, traveling on the leading vaudeville route in the country. Some of the stars included Mae West, W. C. Fields, Houdini, Will Rogers, Fred Astaire, Groucho Marx and the Marx Brothers, Fanny Brice, Harry Lauder, Buster Keaton, Ed Wynn, Pat Rooney, Walter Winchell in Gus Edward's "School Days," Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Billie Burke, Eddie Foy and The Little Foys, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Ben Blue, Ray Bolger, etc. Earlier stars who had performed in Scranton included Lillian Russell, John Philip Sousa, Lily Langtry, Buffalo Bill Cody, and others. A veritable who's who of show business. Horace Goldin, an early introducer of the classic "Sawing A Woman In Half," brought the attraction to the Poli theater during the same era.

Our area had two major vaudeville houses, one in Scranton and one in Wilkes-Barre, called the Poli theaters. The Poli in Scranton still stands. It later became the Comerford, and is now called the Ritz. None of its old grandeur remains. Old movies are now shown in what was a small part of the balcony and the lower level has been broken up into small stores, etc. If you stand across the street you can see how large the building is. The part of the building that is the highest is what is called the flies, where scenery would be raised out of the way until needed. The one in Wilkes Barre no longer stands.

A tough town to play

Scranton had a reputation in show business for being the toughest town on the big time circuit. This laid the foundation for our being mentioned in almost every movie about the show business and vaudeville era. The tough audiences were probably due to the gruff foundry workers and coal miners. Immigrants here did not assimilate as quickly as in the great melting pots of New York, Chicago, and other major cities. Many remained in enclaves with those of similar backgrounds, spoke in their native languages and kept their old world ways. This is now reflected in the rich ethnic culture that remains to this day, that has disappeared in other communities.

As a consequence of its tough audiences, Scranton & Wilkes Barre were used as a trying out area for new acts that were making top dollar in what was called the "medium time" vaudeville circuit, who wanted to get into the big time. Where would they be sent to... to Scranton and or Wilkes Barre. If the acts received a good report, the bookers would bring them into New York to have a look at them. They would then decide if they were good enough to send on the rest of the big time circuit. Hence the well known saying evolved, "If you can make it in Scranton, you can make it anywhere!"

The Poli Theater



...The front of the Poli theater.

The Poli Theater was completed in 1907 at a cost of $250,000.00, a huge fortune in those days. Dollar figures from those days must be multiplied by about 35 to 40 times to equate the numbers to today's inflated figures. Local builder Frank Ricca, who contracted the constructing of the theater, is said to have lost some $30,000.00 on the deal because of changes in the original plans. The theater opened on Labor Day of that year. The opening was a gala event with Mayor J. Benjamin Dimmick presiding. It was on the 200 block of Wyoming Avenue. It was considered one of the finest show houses in the country.The theater sat 2,000 people. It had a lower floor, a mezzanine and a first and second balcony. Admission was ten cents with shows afternoons and evenings. A small part of the theater is still being used as a dollar movie called The Ritz. The theater was constructed for Sylvester Z. Poli of New Haven, Connecticut, an immigrant fromItaly, who later became a millionaire. He came to the United States at the age of 23, in 1881. He began his apprenticeship in show business at the Eden Muse in New York. He operated the Poli Theater as part of a chain, for 18 years from 1907 to 1925. He built a similar theater in Wilkes-Barre. The first manager in Scranton was John H. Docking, who was associated with Mr. Poli¼s New England operations in the large chain of theaters. Later the theater was managed by Frank Whitbeck and John McCarthy. The house orchestra leader was Charlie Meissels. The stage crew was headed up by Landy Campbell and head electrician Terence Carden. The main season ran from early Fall through late Spring. Smaller attractions filled the summer shows.

The Poli Theater Entrance in Wilkes-Barre.

On Sundays theaters were closed due to "blue" laws put through by religious groups who did not want people to have entertainment available on the Christian day of worship. This was convenient for show people as it enabled them to travel to and from cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, etc., and get rested in time for a Monday opening. The theater originally featured only live entertainment and later films along with the live entertainment. The Poli Theaters in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were acquired by the Union Theater Company in 1924. They were operated by the Comerford Amusement company for over a year until they were taken over by a new enterprise headed by Fred Hermann, who had been with Comerford for years. In 1927 the theater ended it's era of vaudeville and showed films only. It was soon renamed The Ritz. In 1930 it was remodeled and renamed as the Comerford. Recently it was again renamed the Ritz and it still stands, though much changed. The entire chain was sold by Mr. Poli in 1927 for thirty million dollars to Fox Enterprise headed by William Fox. They later became part of the Twentieth Century Fox organization. Mr. Poli died in 1937, two years after he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Tourist Information...

Go to Scranton's Houdini Museum.

Go to Pocono Directory
Go to Discount Coupons for Pocono area.
Go to One Page description of major attractions in the Pocono-Poconos-Scranton Wilkes Barre area.
Go to Pocono free discount coupon Page
Go to Detailed Lodging Directory
Go to List of over 200 Scranton Wilkes Barre Pocono area hotels and restaurants listed by area and town.

Go to October Halloween Shows at the Houdini Museum
Go to Scranton - Wilkes Barre Pocono Fun Guide.

Go to Scranton Wilkes Barre History. Historic Jewel of the Pocono Region.
Go to Scranton's Grand Railroad Stations built because of the Scranton's Iron and Steel
Go to Tour 1 of Scranton. A tour of Scranton's skyline and historic buildings.
Go to Tour 2 of Scranton. A tour of Scranton's government buildings.
Go to Tour 3 of Scranton. A tour of Luna Amusement Park .
Go to Tour 4 of Scranton. A tour of the old coal mining area.
Go to Scranton's Grand Railroad Stations built because of Scranton's Iron, Steel and coal.
Go to Old time posters for Lackawanna Railroad promoting clean rides with Phoebe Snow.





© 1989-2003 by The Houdini Museum. No part of any of this document may be reproduced in any form, without written permission. The graphics have been retouched, computer enhanced and resized by the authors.

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