The famous theater architect, Thomas Lamb, was commissioned in the early 1900s by the Ferber Amusement Company to design a theater in Lakewood, New Jersey. The vision for the theater was not only to provide an aesthetically appealing venue, but also one that would encourage Broadway producers to utilize it as a tryout theater before moving their shows to Broadway.In 1922, THE STRAND opened in a time when Lakewood was a popular playground for the rich and famous, including big names such as President Grover Cleveland and John D. Rockefeller. Architecturally, THE STRAND has exemplary sight lines, with no obstructing pillars or uprights. The acoustics are notably effective since it was built at a time when performers relied mainly on their own voices. Today, THE STRAND is known as one of the best acoustical theaters in the nation and is a top live entertainment venue.
by Tim Bartholomew
The first event at THE STRAND was a film that featured Mae Murray, then a sensuous siren of the silent screen, in the epic film, “Peacock Alley.” This picture was followed by five acts of vaudeville. Within a week of its opening, the venue fulfilled its original intended purpose when it presented a pre-Broadway run of “The Devine Crook,” starring Florence Reed. Reed, a leading star of the times, was then held in the same esteem as her more famous contemporary, Ethel Barrymore.THE STRAND continued with the highly popular combination of vaudeville and films interspersed with pre-performance bookings of Broadway shows. Among the luminaries of musical shows, radio, and television who had appeared at the theater as virtual unknowns were Ray Bolger, Milton Berle, Ruby Keeler, and a comedy team listed as Burns and Allen and billed as “A Dumb-Belle and a Smart Guy.”When sound came to the movie industry, the “talkies” hit the theater and the variety acts faded away. THE STRAND became exclusively a motion picture theater except for the occa-sional appearances by Hollywood starlets pro-moting World War II bonds. Later, as suburban movie complexes proliferated, and as compe-tition from television increased and costs soared, the venue was struggling to find a niche.As THE STRAND edged perilously close to extinction, a coalition of individuals, business interests, and government officials recognized the opportunity to preserve such an architec-tural treasure as a means to provide comedy shows and musicals in New Jersey. In 1981,