Editorial: Cohoes Music Hall wasn’t broke, so why “fix” it?

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In awarding management of the Cohoes Music Hall to Playhouse Stage Company/Park Playhouse through an RFP process, the City seems to be punishing success while repeating missteps of the past. 

We’re seeing the same bad movie, again. 

Over the past several years, Holly Brown and her team operated the Hall so effectively that Times Union readers honored it as Best Small Live-Music Venue of the Capital Region in 2019. 

As music reviewer for Schenectady’s Gazette Newspapers, I appreciate the Hall’s high quality programming including particularly impressive shows I saw there by Alejandro Escovedo, Rodney Crowell with Joe Robinson, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet and Terrance Simien and his Zydeco Experience. Many, many more first-class artists have played the Hall in a busy schedule with consistently high performance and production quality. 

The Hall wasn’t broke: Why “fix” it? 

Over time, the Hall has survived a roller-coaster ride of hopeful ambition, investment and achievement followed by depressing let-downs that eroded its momentum, energy and support. 

Photo by Jim Gilbert

After decades of dormancy and neglect, the Hall welcomed the Eighth Step for a time, presenting quality national and regional folk artists. 

Then, the city evicted the Eighth Step in favor of a theater company, C&R Productions, which imploded and withdrew. 

After another dormant period, regional promoters Greg Bell (of Guthrie Bell Productions) and Sal Prizio (then of the Massry Center at the College of St. Rose, now with Proctors Collaborative) promoted a variety of popular music events in the Hall.  

But these competent, creditable promoters were soon ousted, like the Eighth Step, followed by another dormant period.  

See; the same bad movie. 

When the City hired Holly Brown, formerly at Albany’s Palace Theatre, a true renaissance began at the Hall. 

A busy concert schedule brought in top talent, which brought in crowds and revenue, both for the venue and for neighborhood hospitality businesses through dinner-and-show promotions. Moreover, Brown and her team oversaw improvements to lighting and audio systems that enhance the audience experience. 

The Hall was busy, on a roll. 

Granted, I write my concerns without having reviewed the management proposals from which the city chose that of Playhouse Stage Company/Park Playhouse. And this is not to denigrate that organization, which has for 30-plus years presented quality musical theater in Washington Park’s Lakehouse Theater and in the Hall, seemingly in effective cooperation with Brown’s management team, Similarly, impresario Mona Golub’s Second Wind Productions cooperated with Park Playhouse to present its varied musical offerings in Washington Park on nights when Park Playhouse was dark.  

I question the City’s choice due to admiration for the presentation quality and quantity Brown and her team had built in the Hall.  

I also doubt specifically that Playhouse Stage Company/Park Playhouse has expertise in varied bookings and presentations equivalent to the skills she brought to the Hall. 

The pending management change will likely narrow the artistic spectrum of performances in the Cohoes Music Hall, at the expense of the quality musical fare of the past several years, and fans of that fare. 

The Cohoes Music Hall isn’t broken; I urge the City not to “fix” it. 

We have seen this movie before.


The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Nippertown.

1 Comment
  1. Sandi Shirk says

    In fact four of the six full time Playhouse employees worked at the Palace Theatre under Holly Brown and later Executive Directors in various positions including Managing Director and Programming Director, securing all bookings for the Palace in one of their most profitable years. Their RFP states a continued variation in programming – bands & comedy in addition to their theatrical productions.

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