Time Warp, 1986: Gala Celebration Marks Kirby Center’s Rebirth
Sept. 19, 1986: After months of renovations, F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre opened its doors with a gala event to celebrate the theater’s rebirth.
The gala featured the American Ballet Theatre “Celebration Tour,” starring prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory. She danced to the music of Verdi and Gounod and performed the “Black Swan Pas De Deux” by Petipa-Tchaikovsky. Her dance partner for the pas de deux was Clark Tippet.
Other members of the troupe performed in scenes with music from Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending” and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
The night also featured a local aspect as well: Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic orchestra provided the music, and members of Wilkes-Barre Ballet Theatre danced to Ravel’s “Bolero.”
During the first few months after the reopening, the Kirby Center featured a wide range of acts and appearances, including Marie Osmond and the Osmond Brothers, Gregory Hines, Bobby Vinton, Tom Jones, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Crystal Gayle, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the musicals “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Evita” and “A Chorus Line.”
The center began its life as a movie theater called the Comerford in 1938. In 1949, the theater was renamed the Paramount. Its owner, Sportservice Inc., closed the theater in 1977 because of the opening of a General Cinema theater at the Wyoming Valley Mall. A year after the closure, the theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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