The Wall Street Theater in Norwalk has a rich history dating back to 1915. Now completely renovated, it’s a top destination in the region for fans of live music.
With its iconic fleur-de-lys logo, aqua-painted corbels, and inviting box office, the theater is part of the Wall Street Historic District added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
At the Wall Street Theater, big-name musicians are just the beginning. The state-of-the-art theater is a venue for live entertainment, including comedy, ballet and dance troupes, community theater, and even parties and fundraisers.
The theater can produce live streams of everything from private events and corporate events to weddings that can be viewed on a computer or even a phone.
A painstaking, years-long renovation effort that ended in 2016 brought the faded gem back to life, and the theater is positioned to anchor the historic district as it transitions post-pandemic to an updated mix of residential and retail business.
For Frank Farricker, a native of Greenwich and president of Lockwood and Mead Real Estate, and his partner Suzanne Cahill, executive director of the theatre, the Wall Street Theater is a source of pride and joy.
The couple recalled the many hurdles and surprises in their business, including the day the “men in space suits” arrived to remove the asbestos, the decision to replace the 18-inch seats with wider ones and the moment where they spotted the corner of an original, untouched, hand-painted mural emerging from a newer plasterboard.
As staff cleaned and cleaned the theater Monday morning after a weekend of dance performances, Farricker and Cahill described the painstaking historic restoration of the theater, which today operates as a nonprofit organization.
The task was not for the faint of heart, as the work of reviving an abandoned historic theater required an unruffled calm.
Cahill said the interior of the brick building had taken on a green hue after years of neglected roof maintenance. The only thing keeping the elements out was layers of tar on the flat roof. Over time, the flat roof was punctured, bringing in unsavory elements, both wet and wild.
But that was then. Since the top-to-bottom renovation was completed, Cahill has been able to focus his time and energy on booking talent.
A tour for guests includes behind the scenes, the VIP room, the green room with kitchenette and changing rooms, the offices, the views from the balcony and a few surprises.
A secret door leads to a new white roof designed to reflect heat. From this perch, the vistas are mostly green, punctuated by the steeples of the city’s historic churches.
The orchestra seats are now a flat surface with removable chairs that allow the theater to host gala events where guests can mingle and enjoy a drink without navigating an incline.
The theater is notable for its unique stage arch separating the stage from the auditorium and its impressive flight system.
The theater also offers orchestra box seating, balcony seating, and even a soundproof private viewing area with its own bar and breakout room.
Cahill explained that the name Wall Street Theater is deliberate, since it is named after its location, which will not change, a welcome final punctuation after more than a century of name changes.
A painted ‘TR’ visible at the top of the theatre’s proscenium arch recalls those years when the theater operated as The Regent.
Cahill said that in the days of vaudeville, a sea of tents would be erected next to the theater. Performers, animals and crew rested overnight before heading back up the line, either to Danbury or Massachusetts for their next gig.
During the Depression, the space was converted into a movie theater, providing a more affordable night out for residents of the growing city, reopening as the Norwalk Theatre. In addition to movies, the theater has hosted a variety of events ranging from boxing matches to concerts. The Norwalk Theater operated until 1989.
In 1993 the theater reopened as a music club, The Marquee, with live bands.
The Marquee closed after a year but opened in 1994 under new ownership as The Globe, featuring bands such as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Violent Femmes and The Go-Go’s. Then, in 1999, new owners opened The Roxy, a dance club.
The wall of the ground floor Green Room, where talent relax before performing, features a blackboard listing some of the famous artists who have graced the stage, including Elvis Presley, David Byrne, Peter Frampton, Paula Abdul and David Lee Roth.
Theater Rentals and live streaming
While theater has repeatedly reinvented itself, creativity and imagination continue to stretch and theater embraces the new normal.
Not only is the theater a live concert destination, with upcoming performances including legendary artists Buddy Guy, Gordon Lightfoot, Taj Mahal and Lucinda Williams, but with six cameras positioned and the ability to stream live, events from corporate and private can be shared around the world.
In fact, during the pandemic, the Wall Street Theater was a popular venue for virtual weddings of up to 10 people, including the bride and groom and their in-person wedding party, but with social distancing. Live streaming technology and the 21-foot interactive screen on stage kept families and friends zooming in for the nuptials.
Additionally, during the pandemic, the theater has made it its mission to make people laugh by offering live comedy events. Familiar comedians such as Chris DeStefano, Anthony Rodia and other fun voices were appreciated.
Churches also rent out the space for services, and the soundproof private room upstairs on the balcony is convenient for mothers with babies to participate without interrupting services.
Cahill said the theater will hold its gala on June 11 with the legendary Buddy Guy.
Tickets were available at www.wallstreettheater.org
Email the theater at [email protected] or call (203) 831-5004
The Wall Street Theater is located at 71 Wall Street in Norwalk, CT