Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Belated RIP: Cafe La Place

In the early '90s, Mildred La Place had an epiphany. Sandwich shop + dinner theater + Uptown Mt. Lebanon = Rake in the gold.

So she opened Cafe La Place along Washington Road and for years staged high-budget, critically acclaimed masterpieces like "Nunsense 2". Lebo's resident dinner theater aficionados turned out in droves to take in a little bit of Broadway with their chicken cordon bleu.

One of many glowing reviews of Cafe La Place.

The theater's top performers were honored with stars on the "Walk of Fame" installed along Washington Road, and several went on to long successful careers in Hollywood. Starry-eyed fans would stop them in Elby's or The Food Gallery for an autograph, a handshake, or a photograph with their idol.

Success breeds contempt, however, and the Denis Theater next door began a calculating counter-programming strategy to lure theatergoers away from Cafe La Place. In 1994, the Cole Porter medley show "Almost Anything Goes" was completely upstaged by "Robocop 3" at the Denis, and Cafe La Place was closed within weeks.

Pedestrians along Washington Road say that, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the strained high notes and hollow-stage clompings of these masterful performances in the air.

RIP Cafe La Place. You brought glitz and glamour to our central business district for all too brief a time. You will be missed.

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