DOWNEY - After years of debate, discussion and anticipation, the Downey Theatre will soon begin the next chapter in its nearly 40-year history when six nationally-recognized comics bring both their humor and notoriety to Downey next Friday night.Presented by H & E Entertainment, the live show, entitled "A Comedy Night," will be the first event held in the Downey Theatre this year since the city approved a 5-year contract with theatre management company VenueTech last November. Gary Head, 57, vice-president of H & E Entertainment, hopes the Jan. 21 show serves as a new beginning for the dated, 738-seat theatre, which has been draining nearly $400,000 in city funds annually for several years. "We're the guinea pig show," he said optimistically. "We've got HBO comics coming and we want it packed. It's geared towards everyone - G-rated comedy for ages 5 to 90. Come out and have a real great evening. Support the arts in Downey, support the Downey Theatre." The nearly 2-hour show, which starts at 7 p.m., will feature comedians Lamont Bonman, Jimmy Burns and Gilbert Esquivel, ventriloquist act Willie Brown and Woody, impressionist Scott Wood and actor/comedian Mark Christopher Lawrence, who currently stars in NBC's 'Chuck.' Caged Comedy, a local improv group founded by Gary's son, Jared, will also perform during the show. Just two years ago, the 22-year-old expressed concern after his former improv comedy group utilized the theatre for a show, making only a $42 profit after paying almost $5,000 to host the event. However, Head now believes the theatre is in good hands since VenueTech took over daily operations of the venue. "Once VenueTech is set up, it's going to benefit the theatre…this is their industry," Head said. "Since 2009, it's been a lot of talk. Now, this is the first step forward for Downey and its arts community." "We are very, very excited about what will happen at the theatre," said John Lind, president of VenueTech. "We want to get in and be good stewards and make sure that the events already scheduled are successful. We're already developing a business plan and planning a workshop to meet with the theatre's patrons to get their ideas." Lind said he hopes the comedy show does well. He acknowledged that the show could ultimately turn into an annual event for the community. With theatre options becoming a rarity in the surrounding area, Jared Head maintains that Downey still has an opportunity to attract people throughout the Greater Los Angeles area once the Downey Theatre is fully utilized. "It's not a gamble; it's not really a roll of the dice. It's more of an assurance," he said. "It's a prime market - all it needs is a theatre. Whoever runs it wins all the marbles. But you got to start somewhere…this show is going to get people talking." Tickets are $40 for adults, $30 for children under 12 and $25 for balcony seating. The ticket price includes food, which will be provided by Porto's Bakery following the show. "It's entertainment on the cheap, but it's not cheap on the quality," said Head. "It's not going to be amateur hour, this is live theatre. Hopefully, we'll have a couple of people falling out of their seats. "If you're against having a good time and laughing your head off - don't come," said Head with a chuckle. The January comedy show is just the first of many events that H & E Entertainment will host at the Downey Theatre this year. Next month, the company will showcase a gospel music concert, followed by an oldies show in March and a magic show in April featuring Curtis Lovell II, one of the top illusionists and escape artists in the world. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit heentertainment.com or call (562) 760-9880.
********** Published: January 13, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 39