The 500-seat Regent Theater opened in 1916. Known as “Arlington’s Family Resort,” it featured popular vaudeville acts. In the early 1920’s it screened silent films, accompanied live from the orchestra pit by talented musicians from the area. A sound system was added when “talkies” became popular.
In August 2001 the Regent was sold to principal owner Gary Adelson, who with co-owners Leland Stein and Richard Stavros had a dream to turn the theater into a music venue. The following month, in the aftermath of 9/11, they responded to the tragedy with a benefit performance featuring upcoming blues rock guitar wizard Joe Bonamassa.
Over the years many top musicians graced its stage: DJ Fontana (Elvis Presley’s long-time drummer), John Mayall, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, Mission of Burma, Vanilla Fudge, The Zombies, The Yardbirds, Neil Innes, Jesse Colin Young, Jonathan Edwards, Odetta, The Remains, NRBQ, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Bonnie Bramlett, John Hammond, Ronnie Earl, Roy Buchanan, Michelle Shocked, Dr. John, Mountain, New England, They Might Be Giants, and Mike Smith of the Dave Clark 5.
Brad Delp, lead vocalist of the band Boston, led his group Beatlejuice in numerous performances at the Regent, which they considered their home base. The Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra makes frequent appearances and has been the resident band for the past 17 years. Ted Neeley, who played the title role in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” led a sing-along with members of the cast. Big Brother & The Holding Company played there on their 50th anniversary tour.
With its movie screen, the Regent has presented many music-related films, including the premiere of the Janis Joplin film, “Little Girl Blue.” The Dresden Dolls screened their video and Tom Rush made a live cameo appearance at his film premiere. Wilco presented their film premiere at The Regent.
What was once an eight-lane bowling alley below the main level of the theater now includes a sound studio capable of high-quality music production, a green-screen stage for virtual video production, a classroom for private music lessons, and practice space for the Regent’s resident troop “Legacy Dance Company.”
Scheduled at The Regent for Friday the 13th of March, 2020 was to be the 20th anniversary performance of “On a Winter’s Night.” Featuring an all-star cast of folk music artists including Cheryl Wheeler, Christine Lavin, Cliff Eberhardt, Patty Larkin and John Gorka, the show was completely sold out. Fate would intervene, however, when by order of the Governor all businesses in Massachusetts were shut down. But the Regent has survived the pandemic and carries on its mission as an intimate and unique performance venue, and valued asset to the community.
(by John Cappello)