So many things come to mind when I’m asked what I miss most in Rhode Island.
Warwick Musical Theatre is at the top of the list.
Buster and Barbara Bonoff, along with their son Larry, daughter Betsy, and longtime PR person Cheryl, were mainstays at the old “tent,” bringing the best entertainers in the world right here to Warwick, Rhode Island.
Buster and Barbara are in that great musical theatre in the sky. Larry’s still golfing in Florida, after giving the WMT memorabilia to URI. Betsy in doing PR at PPAC, and Cheryl is the PR person at the Dunk.
So many memories, with the last being the best. Country music legend Vince Gill was the closing act at the theatre, playing well after midnight and promising to stay there until the audience was satisfied that he had played every last request.
There were many in tears as the lights went out and one of Rhode Island’s greatest icons shut its doors, unable to compete with the nearby casinos.
We were there that night and proud to be a part of the documentary that was made, recalling the classic moments over the years.
From Paul Anka to Dionne Warwick, the top singers, comedians and actors graced the revolving stage over the years, giving Rhode Islanders a chance to see “the stars come out” without having to go to New York City or Hollywood.
The Bonoffs treated them all like guests, taking them into their home, Buster’s golf course and, after the show, to Rose Farina’s Golden Lantern, where the private dining room chairs had their names engraved on them.
In the early years, musical comedies would come to Warwick with big-name stars for weeklong engagements. Actors, sets and props would come down the steep aisles as the audience was urged to keep their legs under the end seats.
I would review the show on opening night, then rush to the Beacon office to write my review before deadline on old manual typewriters with worn out keys.
When the formula switched to a different entertainer each night, Cheryl would provide me with a photo and bio and I would do a weekly advance.