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More Culture for Coventry

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The legendary Centrum Theatre comes back to life tonight with the music-stuffed Harry Bacharach Show. Nearly a year after the lights were dimmed on the short-lived Ground Floor comedy club, Harry Bacharach frontman Ari Friedman has restored live entertainment in the 230-seat venue, located above the Johnny Malloy's nightclub on Coventry. The idea came after a chat with Chris Russo, who owns both the building and bar. "I told him that the space has been empty for months, and he had nothing to lose," says Friedman. "The Coventry neighborhood really needs more live music. Period."

Every Saturday night, Friedman hosts guest acts. Tonight, the bill includes folkie Brent Kirby and the Better Brothers jazz combo. During the performance, the theater's old movie screen beams locally produced music videos.The Centrum's storied past dates to the 1920s, when it screened silent movies. But by the spring of 2003 — after several ownership changes — the theater wilted under the pressure of relentless competition from the nearby Cedar Lee Theatre. In early 2005, the Ground Floor troupe gave it new life, but only briefly; it closed in less than a year.

But Friedman remains optimistic that weekly jazz, blues, and bluegrass performances can fill the theater. "This is what people in Cleveland Heights say they like," says Friedman. "I'll stick with it until [Russo] decides it's not worth it or I run out of money."
Saturdays, 8:30 p.m., 2006

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