A new owner is in the process of taking over Boston’s 1,200-seat Wilbur Theater, hoping to bring the venerable Broadway tryout house back to life.
Louis A. Delpidio, the president of recently formed Tremont Entertainment Enterprises, already held the lease on the cabaret-theater space in the Wilbur’s basement, which he operates under the name Club Rex. Delpidio’s first step in acquiring the Wilbur, which is on downtown Boston’s Tremont Street, was to buy the mortgage on it from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. He says he’s now taken the next step, actually purchasing the theater itself from its former owner, New Wilbur Theater Inc.
In addition to running Club Rex in the Wilbur’s basement, Delpidio was a partner in New Wilbur Theater Inc., an investor group headed by Boston-area developer Robert Merowitz. Another partner in New Wilbur, Boston area producer-presenter Jon Platt, currently holds the lease on the Wilbur. Delpidio is also part-owner of several Boston-area nightspots, including Roxy and the sports-bar chain Playoffs.
The Wilbur has been dark for more than a year and was used only sporadically in recent years. Delpidio hopes to rent the house to its next-door neighbor on Tremont Street, the 3,600-seat non-profit Wang Center for the Performing Arts, for attractions for which the Wang is too big. Delpidio says he’ll discuss the possible new leasing arrangement with the Wang’s president, Josiah A. Spaulding Jr., this week, when Spaulding returns to his office from a holiday break.
The 80-year-old landmark Wilbur has been hard-hit in recent years by commercial-theater economics. Though it’s a jewel of a straight-play house, it’s too small for touring musicals, and too few straight plays are now done commercially to make it a viable venue. But in its heyday it housed numerous Broadway tryouts, including those of “Our Town” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”