Hanover lets us gush once more
March 16, 2008
Hanover lets us gush once more
That was the advice offered by a friend who knew I’d be writing about the grand opening Friday of the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.
“Don’t gush,” she warned. “You tend to gush.”
Really? Her assessment surprised me, because I never considered myself a gusher. I pride myself a cynic about all things Worcester, a mocker and a scoffer, as most Worcesterites tend to be. Our finely honed instinct for self-preservation practically compels us to carp, mostly because our hopes have been dashed so many times while we played the Charlie Brown to Lucy as she pulled the football away at the last minute, over and over again.
Plus, newspaper columnists are not supposed to gush. We’re expected to doubt and even sneer when appropriate, especially when the marketing booster types get all worked up over yet another if-you-build-it-they-will-come project that always seems to blow up in our hopeful little faces. Gushing is just not cool.
But my friend forced me to reconsider. She reminded me how I gushed over the opening of the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets in 1994, when I wrote the following cringe-inducing paragraph: “At the risk of engaging in shameless hyperbole, I think I know how Dorothy and Toto must have felt when they approached the Emerald City. The Worcester Common Fashion Outlets is a gleaming, glistening dream that has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of Worcester Center to revive this city’s somnambulant shoppers.”
Yikes. OK, so we’ve gone back to sleep and the mall is facing the wrecking ball. In my defense, though, the mall was amazing when it first opened, and I’m a shopper, so I was feverish with joy. Delirious, actually.
So what’s my excuse for Union Station? I gushed over its renovation in 2000 and three years later gushed some more as Joe Petrou put the finishing touches on his 6,000-square-foot restaurant.
“Union Station is going to become a destination point for this city,” he said in my column. “And if it wasn’t for the city of Worcester working together, you wouldn’t see what you’re seeing right now.”
As we know, Mr. Petrou and the city have since parted ways, and what we’re seeing right now is a beautiful but empty building.
I wasn’t a columnist when the Centrum opened in 1982, but an editor assumed gushing duties with a banner headline: “No More Little Town Blues.” That was a bit premature, sort of like George Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. The DCU Center is great, but it has hardly transformed the city.
Now comes the Hanover. Friday night, more than 2,000 people dressed in black tie and sipped champagne while they got to see the renovated theater for the first time. I’ll try not to gush, but the place is magnificent. The party was swell, and Worcesterites clean up real good. There was even a red carpet, and I half-expected Joan Rivers to jump out from behind the Oscar ice sculpture and ask me who I was wearing (Eileen Fisher from a sale rack at Nordstrom’s). Even Joyce Kulhawik was there.
City Manager Michael O’Brien looked dashing in his tux, and I make it a point to mention him because I suggested that he get in the boxing ring May 1 to fight Clive McFarlane in the “Give Kids a Fighting Chance” fundraiser, but then I told him that organizer Tony Salerno had predicted that he wouldn’t do it because he’s too pretty. So the city manager accepted on the spot, with an enthusiasm likely fueled by the champagne, but I think it’s important to get this agreement into print before he comes to his senses and changes his mind.
Bernadette Peters put on a fine show, but her performance was almost unnecessary. I suspect lots of people wished they could have continued schmoozing in the lobby, because the champagne was free and we are, after all, Worcesterites. Plus, the congratulatory speeches lasted nearly as long as Ms. Peters’ relationship with Steve Martin, prompting Hanover executive director Troy Siebels to quip on stage, “Anyone who hasn’t been thanked, please raise your hand.”
But these quibbles are slight, and I offer them because I’m supposed to carp a little (see above). You can’t really blame the founders and the funders and everyone who had a hand in this wonderful project to take time to slap each other on the back. They deserve it. A lot of people said it would never happen, that it couldn’t be done, and they went ahead and did it anyway, almost like they forgot this is Worcester. Good for them.
Now it’s time to push on, and use the momentum from the theater opening to upgrade the stretch of Main Street that abuts the theater. Cafés and restaurants that cater to theatergoers would do wonders for the neighborhood.
When that happens, I’ll try not to gush. But I’ve been made to realize that, like many a Worcesterite, we’re not really cynics about the city. We’ve just grown leery of hoping too much. The curtain has closed too often.
Success stories like the Hanover, though, can’t help but inspire. For all who had a hand in it: Take a bow.