Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on 4 May 1920.
“Chin Chin” played at the Lyric Theatre in Allentown on the 3rd and cast and crew headed the 60 plus miles north to Wilkes-Barre.
Advertising for the show began a week before with a page 3 photo and both a display and a short writeup telling the readers about the coming show. Eventually, three papers[i] would all let the people about the show.
It must have been a big deal to play at the Grand Opera House. It was one of the few theaters at the time that hadn’t added silent films to their schedule and remained a strictly live theater establishment. Advertising copy was upscale and thoughtful. For example, “‘Chin Chin’ at the Grand” spoke about the popular translation of The Thousand Nights and One Night, translated by John Payne, even though “Chin Chin” only used the concept of many stories in one and not having a plot.
Sadly, Donna was never called out specifically, although some of the songs she sang were mentioned as part of the “Musically Rich Show.”[ii]
Post Show Info
I still have not determined where Donna and Chin Chin played on May 5th or May 6th, but by May 7th, they were 140 miles east to Patterson, New York.
Grand Opera House, Wilkes-Barre, PA
I have never had such a difficult time learning about a theatre as I have in learning about the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre. I’ve been unable to find photographs or postcards of the venue. I cannot even find a reliable source for its build date. Certainly, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1891 shows that the Theatre was NOT there. Likewise, the 1892 City Directory doesn’t mention the Opera House as either a “Hall” or by address. However, the 1893 City Directory does indicate that the Theatre was there at 13 South Franklin and that Moses Burgunder was the manager. So, I believe that the Opera House was probably built in 1892.
The Joseph Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory for 1921 reported that the theater seated 1290 people, 464 on the main floor, 280 in the Balcony, 500 in the Gallery, and 46 in box sets.
Specifications for the Grand Opera House, Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Proscenium opening: 36×34 ft
Front to back wall: 36 ft
Between side walls: 60 ft
Apron 2 ft
Between fly girders: 46 ft
To rigging loft: 60 ft
To fly gallery: 38 ft
and there were 12 Dressing rooms
I have been unsuccessful in determining what happened to theater, although I know that it has been demolished.
Today the site is a parking lot.
I have contacted several organizations in hopes to learn more about the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre. I will incorporate that information when I learn more.
[i] The Evening News, The Wilkes-Barre Record, and the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.
[ii] The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) · Mon, May 3, 1920 · Page 5, “At the Grand.”