By Antoinette Colon
Genesius Theatre President Brian Fichthorn led a tour of the building that was a typical smoke-and-jazz club during Reading's Roaring Twenties.
He pointed out the door buzzer that granted, or blocked, entrance to the basement of 153 North 10th Street, a speakeasy frequented by Prohibition rebels.
While it was raided numerous times by police during those years, people would come to the club - the Republican Club, that is - for alcohol, gambling and live entertainment.
In those days, the club was a hotbed for crime. "Known as the Republican Club since 1924, there are some ghost stories associated with that, about people killed during that time and secreted away," said Brian Trupp, costumer and vice president of Genesius Theatre.
The building that now serves as the Genesius Theatre had a stage on the main floor with an orchestra, nightclub tables, dance floor and full-service kitchen.
By the bar downstairs, people could bowl and gamble with slot machines.
"Reading was full of organized crime. This was the rackets," Trupp said. "We're living with the consequences of that today, unfortunately. This was a big organized crime town, even including Mayor Kubacki in the '50s."
Genesius Theatre will be a fitting venue this weekend for Bugsy Malone to tell the tale of two rival gangs and their conflicts over control of New York City in 1929.
The mainstage at 10th and Walnut will present a production of "Bugsy Malone Jr." as a tribute to the gangster lifestyle of the Roaring Twenties. The production opens Saturday, June 24 and runs until Sunday, July 2.
Under the direction of Debbi Silas, numerous hoodlums get "splurged" and the heat turns up. The new girl in town, Blousey Brown, has dreams of stardom and Bugsy falls in love. Fat Sam's Grand Slam is the local hot spot owned by the head of one rival gang, while Dandy Dan and his gang are doing their best to take over.
Dancing, singing and lots of good old-fashioned slap-stick humor make this show a must for families to share together.
The cast includes 36 young people from Berks County, representing many school districts.
The show will be performed June 24 at 3 and 7 p.m., June 25 at 3 and 7 p.m., Friday, June 30 at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 1 at 3 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 2 at 3 p.m. All tickets cost $10.
For more information call the theatre at 610-731-8151. For reservations call the box office at 610-373-9500.
Contact reporter Antoinette Colon
at 610-367-6041, ext. 255 or
Bugsy - Luis Pagan-Anderson
Blousey - Cara Wojciechowski
Fat Sam - Josh Austin
Talullah - Breland Moore
Dandy Dan - Justin Seibert
Lena - Sarah Wisser
Ensemble: Marissa Aulenbach, Kayla Aulenbach, Kathryn Bourkey, Devon Feltenberger, Audra Fryberger, James Damore, Olivia Damore, Ian Gavigan, Gabby Keuscher, Isabell Keuscher, Michael Knoll, Dane Kragness, Haley Kragness, Jeremy Lupowitz, Lilly Moyer, Andrew O'Rourke, Colleen O'Rourke, Katie O'Rourke, Bridget Pfeill, Rachel Seibert, Emily Snyder, Rececca Snyder, Ryan Sullivan, Shannon Wade, Keri Wert, Emily Wisser, Lucy Wolfe, Taylor Wolfe and Rebecca Wright.