Scranton’s revived Leonard Theater shocks Electric City arts scene to life
SCRANTON — An old Electric City theater has been revived, and it’s looking to give a shock to Scranton’s performing arts scene.
After renovations on Leonard Theater’s 335 Adams Ave., location started in 2014, it was only a matter of time before the former vaudeville venue reopened its doors to the public. A Halloween party with Grammy winning DJ Cedric Gervais and a night of music showcasing local talent on Nov. 4 served as Leonard Theater’s kickoff week and represented both points on executive director Steve Masterson’s agenda for the space — an option for national acts and a stage for homegrown artists.
“Recently there hasn’t been much in Scranton and you pretty much have to drive to Wilkes-Barre or East Stroudsburg to see anything bigger than a local band these days,” Masterson said. “My goal is to bring national talent back to downtown Scranton multiple times a month. In the future, local bands will be opening for the national acts to give them even more exposure. I want to give the local bands a bigger stage and platform to showcase their talent and get out of the bar scene and onto a big stage.”
One of the first local acts to hit Leonard Theater’s stage was Black Tie Stereo. Drummer George Pachucy said that options were few as far as venues were concerned while he was growing up in the area — he wasn’t even aware Leonard Theater existed until a few weeks ago when his band was booked there. After he and his band saw what the space had to offer, Pachucy became a believer.
“Our biggest reaction when I saw the venue was, ‘Why haven’t they been doing this for years?’” Pachucy said. “It’s a really cool setup — it’s up a big flight of stairs and right when you walk in there’s this beautiful stage and a big wide open area. It’s generous. Someone finally said, ‘Hey, we have this great space, we have a lot of good musicians around here and we can bring in national acts.’”
That space began life in the 1920s as Casino Hall, one of the many theaters then located in Scranton. Casino Hall closed in the ’40s and the building remained unused until 1949, when Thomas Leonard opened Leonard Theater in the first floor storefront.
“Leonard’s Hardware kind of became one of those kinds of ‘Opie and Andy’ kind of iconic hardware stores,” said Lackawanna Historical Society assistant director Sarah Piccini refrencing “The Andy Griffith Show.”
The theater above stayed empty until Diva Productions moved its company into the space in 1997, but both entities vacated the premises in 2006, once again leaving 335 Adams Ave. without an occupant. Almost a decade later, Leonard Theater’s reopening is a push by Masterson and his team to revive the space and put Scranton back on the radar for national touring acts. The theater’s calendar includes The Ataris Dec. 1 and Trapt Dec. 11.
“So to be able to bring entertainment back to downtown Scranton … it’s a dream come true that I’m glad I’m able to be a part of,” Masterson said.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts