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Colby Avenue Cavalcade
The lackluster performance opening night was by no means an indication of the quality of entertainment to come, indicating instead, perhaps, that Everett audiences were not to be thought of as a pushover for whatever entertainment came their way. Over the years the community came to expect, and usually received, high-quality fare, witnessing a procession of personalities on the Everett Theatre stage that reads like a Who's Who of American show business in the early 20th Century.

For the first three years, the theater offered roadshow presentations almost exclusively, averaging about one booking a week. For a decade that began with the 1904 season, a mix of road shows and stock company productions prevailed. In the middle of 1914 there was a brief, ill-fated attempt to promote the theater as a vaudeville house, after which the old road show format was reinstated until 1918, when motion picture showings took precedent, with an occasional live presentation thrown in.

During the years before the First World War, Everett was a regular stopping place for road shows that one might not expect to see in a town of such modest size. Local folks were avid theater-goers who turned out in droves to see a good show and the Everett Theatre Company's bill posting and the promotional office did a thorough job of advance publicity that drew patrons from all over Snohomish County. The theater itself was modern and well-equipped, not simply capable of staging almost anything but also a genuine pleasure in which to work, an unusually fine facility for a young industrial city like Everett.

Contributing factors to the abundance of name acts were revealed with the discovery of detailed Everett Theatre Company records for the years 1903-1907. Performers got most of the gate. It wasn’t unusual for 75 or even 80 percent of the gross to go to the attraction. Secondly, the Everett Theatre Company picked up virtually all of the costs. They paid the orchestra and the stage crew. They covered the advertising expenses. For their own part, the Theatre Company dispersed complimentary tickets that must have been excellent public relations for the company. But it is clear from a review of the company books that not much money was made from the attractions side of the business.

However, McChesney had been clever enough to incorporate a second element into the Everett Theatre Company- a profitable outdoor advertising concern. Foster and Kleiser were given their walking papers and the Everett Theatre Company stepped in as the bill poster and sign leaser for the community. The advertising business appears to have been a consistent money maker, keeping the company healthy when the stage performance side was only breaking even.

It appears that mill workers were not always reverent recipients of theatrical fare. If a show was the second rate, they could be downright unruly and they were hard on anything resembling pretentiousness. Once during a highbrow drama featuring Shakespearean actor Frederick Warde a rowdy member of the audience supplied loud smacking sound effects for a kissing scene. Warde stalked to the footlights, thrust out a threatening finger and commanded: "You will not repeat that beastly insult!" No one did.

When Everett fell for a performer, it could be just as demonstrative in a positive way. International opera star Ernestine Schumann-Heinke swept the city off its feet several times, proving that she didn't have to play to highbrows or limit her performances to cultural hubs to put over bel canto.

One of the first truly big-name performers to appear at the theater was Richard Mansfield. His brilliant make-up for the roles of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Ivan the Terrible and Monsieur Beaucaire proved an inspiration to the youthful Lon Chaney and put Mansfield on the suspect list at Scotland Yard during the Jack the Ripper atrocities. He was known to be a terror to theater personnel as well, haughty, demanding and brutally unforgiving of mistakes. Everett Theatre stagehands were blissfully stunned when Mansfield publicly praised their competence at the close of his Everett engagement in June of 1902.

"The Man of a Thousand Faces" himself once worked at the Everett Theatre, though in November of 1911 no one had heard of Lon Chaney. He was only an eccentric dancer with Max Dill's musical comedy company at the time. By the mid-Twenties, Chaney's film characterizations of Quasimodo and the Phantom of the Opera would pack the theater where he had once performed in obscurity.

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