ELIZABETH, NJ – The Ritz Theatre, an Elizabeth landmark, has come back to life under new management and will feature as its inaugural show, Festival of Praise, on October 31 at 8 p.m.
The Gospel performance will feature Hezekiah Walker, Fred Hammond, Donnie McClurkin, and Kim Burrell, along with Isaac Caree, Jessica Reedy, Zacardi Cortez, and comedian Marcus Wiley.
This performance is the first of many music and dance events that reflect the diversity of the city. “We have a lot of different things happening here,” said Yusuf Gandhi, the Ritz’s executive director. “The population is so diverse, Caribbean, Portuguese, South America, it is not one culture.”
Tickets for the Festival of Praise range from $35 to $90, children under the age of 12 are free, and groups of 10 or more will receive a 20 percent discount.
The Ritz Theatre has a long history with the City of Elizabeth. Its lobby and theatre, with its painted ceilings and chandeliers, rival any New York playhouse. In fact, with its 2,791 seats, it is as large as New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
The theatre opened for its first show on March 9, 1926 and was a cultural landmark through the 1960's when entered a period of decline. By 1980 it was threatened to be demolished in order to build a parking lot, before being rescued by philanthropists who set out to restore the theatre. In 1994 it was purchased by George Castro, who has restored it to its 1920's grandeur and used it as a performing arts center.
Today, the Ritz Theatre is now a fully-equipped, state of the art, multi-purpose performing arts center that will feature concerts, comedy, theatrical performances, speakers, opera, dance recitals, children’s and family shows, movies, sports, presentations and other special events. The Theatre will also be used for corporate, civic, and local events, which will include meetings, conferences, weddings, stage competitions and fundraisers.