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Saturday’s jazz concert to help fund Lyric Theater’s move

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WATERTOWN — The show must go — somewhere.

Watertown Lyric Theater finds itself in the same situation as Little Theatre of Watertown: in a search for a place it can call home.

The popular local community theater group also must find a new venue to host performances after leaving the Black River Valley Club, whose Washington Street building downtown is expected to be sold to Purcell Construction Co.

Kevin R. Kitto, Lyric Theater’s business manager, said the group needs to find a place to call home. Like its counterpart, Lyric Theater — which specializes in musicals — no longer will be able to use the Black River Valley Club for smaller shows, rehearsals, a basement to build its stage sets and space for storage.

And Lyric Theater will need to finance the move.

That’s where Garrett L. McCarthy, who’s been involved in saving the old Masonic Temple on Washington Street, comes in. Mr. McCarthy, a Henderson muralist and artist, has organized a fundraising concert for Saturday.

“Garrett just came along and said he wanted to help,” Mr. Kitto said. “He’s a big supporter of the local arts.”

Billed as a “Night of Jazz,” the concert, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Asbury United Methodist Church, 327 Franklin St., will feature New York City jazz singer James Rich, a Syracuse University alumnus who has toured as a backup singer with Harry Belafonte and was a lead in the national touring company of “Rent.”

He’ll be accompanied by local pianist Phillip Lai, who also is a piano teacher. Mr. McCarthy recently saw the jazz singer perform in a popular Manhattan club, the Metropolitan Room, and was so impressed he wanted to bring him to Watertown.

“It was in this club that looks like something right out of the movies,” Mr. McCarthy said. “He’s just coming up and I think he’s going to be a big name.”

Dexter resident Annette Miller, who is competing in a national talent competition to go to Nashville, also will perform that night.

Tickets are $20. Proceeds will benefit Lyric Theater’s relocation expenses, Mr. McCarthy said.

The money may be used for rent at a new venue, finding space to store sets and other belongings and for other related costs, Mr. Kitto said.

Purcell plans to buy the Washington Street building, near the YMCA, and lease its first floor back to the Black River Valley Club, building rental apartments on the second and third floors. Club operations on the ground floor would be expanded.

Lyric Theater officials have already begun looking for a new home. The group must be out of the Black River Valley Club this month.

News of the building’s proposed sale came as a shock to Lyric, which began presenting local productions of Broadway musicals in 1959. In recent years, it has presented “Spam-a-Lot,” “Oliver,” “The Sound of Music” and “Beauty and the Beast” at the Dulles State Office Building.

With what’s going on with the Black River Valley Club, Lyric Theater needs to find a venue or several locations for its smaller productions, like “The 25th Anniversary of the Putnam County Spelling Bee” or “Nunsense,” Mr. Kitto said.

In the past, Lyric Theater has presented dinner theater shows and needs to find a location to accommodate such smaller productions, he said.

Lyric will continue to present full-scale musical theater productions at the state office building, where the group’s youth contingent will put on the “Wizard of Oz” next weekend, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15 and 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16. The group also will present “South Pacific” there in the fall.

Proceeds go to the Watertown Lyric Theater Scholarship Foundation to help support music and the performing arts in the north country, according to Lyric’s website.

With Little Theatre in the same situation, the two organizations may combine forces to find a new venue, Mr. Kitto said.

He mentioned such possible sites as the Savory Cafe in the Best Western hotel on Washington Street, the Clayton Opera House, the Hilton Garden Inn, possibly other banquet facilities and a variety of school auditoriums.

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