The end of an era

R.I.'s Warwick to shutter, Bonoff series carries on

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The 45-year-old Warwick Musical Theater in Warwick, R.I., will close its doors and become part of summer theater history this Labor Day.

But it will live on via a newly formed alliance between Warwick producer and promoter Larry Bonoff and the year-round Providence Performing Arts Center that will bring WMT-style concerts to the PPAC in a Bonoff Celebrity Series, set between the Providence center’s existing touring Broadway and children’s series programming throughout the year.

The alliance was announced last Thursday night prior to a sold-out concert at the Warwick by the group Alabama.

Started in tent

Larry Bonoff’s father, Burton “Buster” Bonoff, began the Warwick in an in-the-round tent. Its current, more permanent, though open-sided, theater — which like the Providence center, seats more than 3,000 — was built in 1967. In recent years, the Warwick has focused on country and comedy attractions and has offered such names as Kenny Rogers, Vince Gill, B.B. King and Chicago.

One reason for the closing of the Warwick is competition from nearby venues, notably the huge American Indian-run gambling casinos in neigh boring Connecticut, which offer numerous big name concert attractions.

PPAC president J.L. “Lynn” Singleton welcomed the alliance with Bonoff, pointing out that “not only will the Celebrity Series round out PPAC’s roster with the addition of country, comedy and contemporary acts, but it will attract a new audience ….”

According to Bonoff and Singleton as many as 20 shows may be presented at the Providence Center in 2000 through the Bonoff Celebrity Series. Among names mentioned for the shows are Brooks & Dunn, Jerry Vale, George Carlin, Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, the Beach Boys, Diana Ross, Carrot Top and Gallagher.

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