NORWAY — While the renovation of the 1894 Norway Opera House stage area and balcony remains an expensive and questionable project for future discussion, its past importance to the community is undisputed.
The upper floors have been the scene of graduations, town meetings, movies, grand dances, birds, crooners, rallies and even ball games. These were some of the more spectacular events, as chronicled by the Lewiston Evening Journal:
* For many years, the Opera House hosted the Western Maine Poultry Show. The stage area, and even the ante rooms and dressing area, were filled with more than 1,000 breeds of poultry and even some exotic animals, such as orange squirrels from Cuba. During one show in January 1920, the Opera House was described as a “sort of bedlam let loose,” with the crowing of the roosters, the cackling of the hens, the hissing of the geese and the quacking of the ducks. “Conversation has been a bit difficult, but all this confusion is good for the farmer."
* In 1924, the Opera House sold out Clerk's Ball tickets to the gallery, where hundreds of spectators watched the Grand March of participants as they entered the dance floor. Women were dressed in outfits described as being iridescent, sequined overdresses with a trimming of tulle and silver brocade metal cloth, dresses combined with king blue and gold lace trimming and peach bloom satin with flower trimmings.
* In May 1935, crooner Rudy Vallee, who was at his summer cottage in Lowell, agreed to be in the Legionnaires minstrel show at the Opera House. Rudee's father, Charles A. Vallee, lived in Norway, but this was the first time Rudy had been seen in town. He played to two, sold-out shows of about 1,100 people.