Meridian Industrial

BROAD BROOK OPERA HOUSE

2021-04-29 | VICKI MITCHELL

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Have you been experiencing the blues during the long social isolation imposed by COVID-19? Are you jazzed about attending live music shows again? Well then, get ready to rock, and pop over to the Broad Brook Opera House in Connecticut for live musical entertainment in a very impressive setting! The Broad Brook Opera House, owned by Tom and Lesa Kuhns, and assisted by their daughter Victoria Kania as Event Coordinator, has been lovingly updated and restored.

The Opera House, built in 1892 by the Broad Brook Company, which manufactured textiles, is an example of a Queen Anne style building. It served as a salesroom for company products in the front area, and the rear housed the shipping department. The top floor served as a community hall, and was the social center of the neighborhood. It hosted, among other events, dances, basketball games, minstrel shows, school graduations, and homecoming events for servicemen and women from as far back as WWI and II.

In 1920, when the company relocated their sales and shipping departments back to the main mill complex, the Opera House began many years of housing a variety of other businesses and organizations. The initial occupants were Tyler’s Pharmacy and Ice Cream Parlor, the Post Office, and Sargent’s Shoe Store. More recent occupants have included a barbershop, an insurance office, and a local musical theatre group, the Opera House Players, now located in Enfield. According to Kania, the basement of the building “was home for the Broad Brook 19 Weightlifting Club, once upon a time. The most notable rumor is that the great Houdini had performed right here at the Opera House.”

Tom Kuhns bought the building in December of 2002, and slowly began the transition and renovations necessary to make the site an events venue, hosting weddings and other special occasions. When COVID -19 shut all such events down, it afforded the family a chance to complete the renovations it had started, leading to the amazing facility it is today. While the Opera House will still be available for private event rental, the family says availability will be subject to the live entertainment they are now focused on.

The shows will be held upstairs in the newly named Timber Room, which houses the stage, tables and chairs, and a bar. A comfortable lounge area on the main floor will serve as the performer’s green room, where they can gather and relax before and between shows. The Kuhns have installed an exceptional lighting and sound system, working with Craig Jeppesen of JepAudio. “A system this size needs a professional, and Craig will be on site for every live event to ensure there are not any issues with the sound or light show that accompanies the acts!” says Kania.

“The acoustics in this room are amazing,” enthused Kuhns, who is also excited about the light show accompanying the musical performances.

The musical line-up is being handled by booking agent Greg Hazelton of Copper Hill Productions. He and Jeppesen are high school buddies, now working with the Kuhns family on their new venture. The grand reopening show at the Opera House was held in April, and featured the band One Time Weekend. For now, the Opera House plans to host a few shows per month, according to Kania. “When we can get past the restrictions and obstacles the virus has thrown towards the live events industry, we plan to establish residency type talent and have shows more frequently. We’d like to get to do a comedy night once a week and a ‘local’ night monthly.” The Opera House will be following whatever health guidelines the State of Connecticut has in effect at the time of each show.

Shows this month include the Beatles tribute band Ticket to Ride on May 15th, and Saskia Laroo and Glenn Roth on the 29th. Kunia explains, “Saskia is a Dutch jazz musician! She splits her time between Connecticut and the Netherlands. She’s quite talented and definitely has a unique performance. Glenn Roth is a fingerstyle guitarist who is a Connecticut native. He’s toured all over the northeast and has a lifetime permit to the MTA’s underground, meaning he can play in NYC Grand Central Station and on the subway platforms.”

Coming up in June are Auburn Mode on the 12th playing a “fusion of progressive and energetic folk pop;” and Last Child on the 18th, an Aerosmith Experience. Also this summer, the Opera House will be celebrating Jerry Day (as in Jerry Garcia) with music provided by Steelhead and Shakedown. Go to bbohct.com under the live events tab for dates and details of upcoming shows and events. A concession stand will be offering snacks such as local pizza, hot dogs, nachos, candy and the like, and the bar will be featuring local and craft beers, and canned cocktails and soda. Kania says, “We plan to do a collaboration with Broad Brook Brewing for our very own beer. We’ll have a launch party when that comes to fruition.”

The most exciting part of the family’s venture in this new direction, says Kania, “beyond the obvious of finally getting to open in the post-COVID world, would be all the people we get to meet and interact with. Regardless of anyone’s background or beliefs, people connect through music and we’re happy to be a big part of that for this region.”

The Broad Brook Opera House is located at
107 Main Street in Broad Brook, CT
Bbohct.com • 860-558-9193
for Victoria Kania, Event Coordinator, or email
broadbrookoperahouse@gmail.com

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