Palace Theatre

7 Ledgewood Avenue,
Netcong, NJ 07857

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The Growing Stage (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Brandt Theaters, Snaper Circuit

Functions: Community Arts Center, Dance, Live Performances, Live Theater, Stage Shows

Styles: Art Deco, Colonial Revival

Previous Names: The Growing Stage

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 973.347.4946

Nearby Theaters

Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre was built in 1919. It started as a silent movie and vaudeville house, then moved on to talkies and other community events and entertainment.

In 1934 it was leased by a prominent Newark theatre operator and major renovation began with fabric wall coverings and ceiling drapes. In 1938, there was a marquee added and the Colonial Revival facade was covered by Art Deco style.

The Palace Theatre was the “try out” theatre for famous actors before hitting Broadway. Newly released popular movies appeared over the next two decades.

In the mid-1940’s the commercial storefronts in the its fa├žade were removed and the Palace Theatre continued as a movie house into the 1960’s. Then competition took hold from television and eventually from multiplexes. It was converted into a warehouse in 1981 until 1994.

It was purchased in May 1995 by The Growing Stage and it is now a performing arts center. It is on the Register of Historic Places nationally and in New Jersey.

Contributed by Dave Bonan

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

teecee on June 27, 2005 at 2:41 pm

I believe that they are sponsoring another Vaudeville night in Sept. 2005:

LAKE HOPATCONG HISTORICAL MUSEUM; Vaudeville once again takes center stage at Netcong theater. (COUNTY NEWS)


In the days before radio and television, there was vaudeville.

Live theater performers – such as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Milton Berle and Bud Abbott – toured the country with their vaudeville acts, many stopping in at the Palace Theatre in Netcong, which opened in 1919.

Although the historic building is now owned by the Growing Stage Theatre, a professional theater company that is maintaining the center for young people and their families, it will return to its roots tomorrow as vaudeville will once again be seen on its stage for the first time in more than 70 years.

“We’re going to be celebrating the old-time vaudeville with an all-star bill,” said Frank Cullen, co- founder of the American Vaudeville Museum in Boston and content editor of the Vaudeville Times. Cullen will recreate a vaudeville show using historic video of some of the greatest acts. The clips are among 1,200 vaudeville films that were converted from 16-millimeter reels to videocassette and DVD and are kept at the museum library.

While Cullen will discuss the entertainment that dominated America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he also will give background information during the 90-minute video clips about the quick-change artistry, ballet, juggling, magic and other vaudeville acts that were performed by many of the popular comedians and other performers, including several who became early movie celebrities.

The Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum is sponsoring the show because the history of the theater has early ties to the surrounding lake community.

Television celebrities who began their careers touring the vaudeville circuit, such as Berle, Abbott, Burns and Allen and Joe Cook, lived or vacationed along the shores of Lake Hopatcong.

Known as a major Northeast resort, the northwood section of Hopatcong was dubbed the “Actors' Colony” in the early 1900s because many of these actors purchased summer homes throughout the community, said Marty Kane, President of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum.

“The actors were a prominent part of the lake back then, but most people living there now don’t know about that part of its history,” Kane said.

The Palace Theater, which was built primarily for school plays, graduations and other community events, opened up to vaudeville performers as a way to bring more income to the community and offset the costs of the facility, according to Steve Fredericks, executive director of the theater.

The building eventually became known as “the center” of entertainment in the region, he said.

“The theater is a part of the history of the lake, and it’s important to recognize that and share it with the community both young and old,” Fredericks said.

The Netcong theater was one of about 4,000 vaudeville theaters in the country by 1920, according to Cullen. The theater is listed on both the national and state registers of historic places.

“We have to keep the theater alive. You can’t replace its history,” he said.

Local residents flocked to the center to see live shows because it was more entertaining than staying home and reading, which was a main source of entertainment in the early 1900s.

In those days, without the luxury of air-conditioned or heated homes, vaudeville shows took people “away from the drab life” and into theaters that were built to look like palaces. The shows were big attractions that reached out to the “family audience,” Cullen said.

“It’ll never be big again,” he said, “but it won’t go away.”

The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and must be purchased in advance. For reservations and ticket information, call (973) 398-2616.

Tanya Drobness works in the Sus sex County bureau. She can be reached at or at (973) 383- 0516.

Article CJ107689532

teecee on July 11, 2005 at 10:14 am

The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), June 8, 1997 p040
Like its audience, troupe still coming into its own. (SCANNER)
Byline: Susanna Chu

The Palace Theatre in Netcong hardly resembled a palace when the Growing Stage, under executive director Stephen Fredericks, acquired it from a moving and storage company two years ago.

The floorboards were rotting. Clearing out the debris from its days as a storage warehouse took hundreds of volunteers and 14 dumpsters.

Two years, 10 productions and 10,000 playgoers later, the Growing Stage is living up to its name – and hoping that the Palace Theatre will, as well. The Growing Stage, a nonprofit organization, accepted an anonymous $75,000 donation to repair the building’s decaying exterior.

Currently, Growing Stage productions have audiences averaging about 150, leaving half its 299 seats empty. The restored Art Deco facade, Fredericks hopes, will make the theater even more attractive to playgoers. “Ideally, we’d love to fill all the seats,” said Fredericks, noting 60 to 70 percent of the budget comes from ticket sales, with the rest from donations.

The Growing Stage started as a term paper that Fredericks wrote while he was an undergraduate at Arizona State University.

“I took an elective in theater for young audiences, thinking it would be a class for an easy grade,” Fredericks admitted, “But I was fortunate to have a professor, Don Doyle, who made theater come alive for me.”

When Fredericks discussed his dream theater with an interviewer at Rutgers, where he applied for graduate school, the interviewer suggested that he go ahead with his plans. It happened through a combination of personal savings and money that his parents had given him for graduate school.

Since the realization of his dream in 1982, the Growing Stage has evolved into a family effort. Fredericks' wife, Lori, directs. Their three children, Stephen Jr., 7, Benjamin, 5, and Emma, 2, regularly attend performances.

For Ann and Steve Nitka of Washington Township in Morris County, working with the Growing Stage has also been a family experience. Both husband and wife volunteer at the theater, and their two children attend the summer camp and theater arts classes during the school year.

“I think the theater has had a positive impact on the lives of the people involved,” said Ann Nitka. “My kids are getting more and more excited about it.”

The Growing Stage holds theater arts classes throughout the year and hosts a summer arts day camp for children from kindergarten through eighth grade. It also sponsors a summer internship program for high school and college students.

Located in the northern corner of Morris County, near the borders of Sussex and Warren counties, the Palace is ideally situated to become the arts center that Fredericks envisions. Once renovation on the upper stories of the building is completed, much of the space will be used for classrooms, he said.

The history of the Growing Stage has been a give-and-take effort between the community and the theater. When the Growing Stage moved from its first home, in Chester, to Netcong, hundreds of volunteers helped clean up the new building.

In March 1996, when the Growing Stage opened its first season in the Palace with “The Wizard of Oz,” many of the same volunteers came to help, despite freezing temperatures in the unheated theater.

In return, the Growing Stage had produced relatively inexpensive exposure to live theater for young people in the community. The theater charges school groups $3 per seat, and often takes productions to schools and hospitals.

At last week’s production of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Jefferson Township kindergarten students gazed with wonder at the two actors, Fredericks and Michelle Merriman, who doubles as producer of the Growing Stage.

Two lines at the beginning of that production summed up the mission of the Growing Stage. When Fredericks and Merriman, as Peter and Lucy, narrators of the story, contemplate how to show the audience what happens in Narnia, their mythical kingdom, Peter exclaims, “I’ve got it! No … we don’t have Steven Spielberg’s budget.” But finally, the two hit on the solution: “Hey! Magic theater!”

With that, the lights go out and the magic begins.


  1. Kindergartners roar like lions at the invitation of the cast at a Growing Stage production in Netcong. In the front row Friday are, from left, Joseph Geib, Christopher Bastecki and Alaina Pisani of Milton School in Jefferson Township. <par>


Article CJ81951635

teecee on March 2, 2006 at 4:05 am

Listed as part of the Snaper Circuit in the 1961 Film Daily Yearbook.

shoeshoe14 on July 19, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Finally saw this theater last week. It looks pretty weathered. It looks like an office building from the front, with that beige-ish brickwork and the back, flyspace looks worn out and has this metal curved siding all around. It should be refurbished. It resides on Route 183 (old Route 206) and Lake Musconnetcong is behind it.

LHHM on August 18, 2007 at 8:34 pm

“Rain or Shine,” an early Frank Capra movie, not seen on the big screen for more than 70 years, has been restored and will debut on Sept. 15 at Netcong’s Palace Theatre.

“Rain or Shine” was released in August 1930, just two years after the introduction of sound into movies. It starred Joe Cook, one of the leading comedians of the day, and his sidekick, Dave Chasen, as well as Tom Howard and Joan Peers.

“Rain or Shine” had been a successful Broadway musical when a young Frank Capra decided to adapt it to the silver screen as a non-musical.

Originally released by Columbia Pictures, the film was a vehicle for Cook to show off his many talents. Completely restored by Sony Pictures, the film now is considered important as an example of Capra’s work prior to his success as director of such hit movies as “It Happened One Night,” “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Meet John Doe” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Why Netcong? Cook formerly lived at Lake Hopatcong, just a few miles from the theater. He is considered one of the lake’s most famous residents, having lived there full time for almost two decades. In fact, he entertained most of the cast of “Rain or Shine” at his lake house, known as Sleepless Hollow.

Originally finding fame in vaudeville, Cook became one of Broadway’s leading stars in the 1920s and 1930s and starred in the Broadway production of “Rain or Shine.”

The premiere is a collaboration of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum and The Growing Stage Theatre, which makes its home at and operates the Palace Theatre. Built in 1919, the Palace was an entertainment landmark for more than 50 years in the communities of northwestern New Jersey. Commencing as a silent movie and vaudeville house, it later featured talking movies, local high school plays and graduations, minstrel shows and other live entertainment.

Tickets for the Sept. 15 premiere are $10 and can be obtained through the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum by calling (973) 398-2616, or at LHHISTORY@ ATT.NET.

shoeshoe14 on November 29, 2008 at 11:56 am

I biked by there yesterday and sure enough the box office was open, so I parked and went in. It is quite small. There was a performance being readied with draping ceiling fabric, stars and balloons. The admin office was busy and they said I could walk around but not on the balcony because they were getting ready for that evenings' performance. The bathrooms were nice and the offices were big, which were on the left side lobby with windows facing downtown. The other side was a concession/waiting area.

The marquee’s underside had no lightbulbs at all, but there were 18 holes.

Going inside, behind you in the center was a waist high sound booth and the floor was basically concrete with no carpet. There was a painted “yellow brick road”-type on the floor which forked at the rear. The faux frescos of “A Midsummer Nights Dream” adorned the entire wall on both sides and looked as if they were 80 years old, something management told me was done on purpose by the artist, who also did the same design on the wraparound balcony.

It was very colorful inside and the bright paintwork of the proscenium seemed very vivid and playful. Attached to the center of it was a gigantic music lyre. There were folding seats in the orchestra, numbering about 250, which must make for a great performance space since when they are removed, would leave an empty community space. The chandelier above is small, but the perfect size and was illuminated. I have pics from my cell phone if anyone is interested.

teecee on May 13, 2009 at 5:31 pm

must have spent some time as the “Lakeside Theatre"

HAMMER77777 on October 31, 2010 at 3:28 pm

i wish they would show regular movies

jayessar on September 25, 2012 at 1:34 am

Years ago, when I turned 18, the Palace Theater was one of the very few places a person could go to see hard core porno. I went there perhaps half a dozen times. I have a distinct memory of my first time there, loudly hearing the in-progress movie from out in the lobby while buying soda from a vending machine, ….and then walking in for the first time. Yes, this was also a part of the theaters past life. I do remember there were curtains behind the screen that went way up high somewhere. There used to be parking in a dirt lot to the left of the theater, but they sold it off and a bank was built there. Amazingly, it later became Lakeside Moving and Storage, and was also the Lakeside Theater. Glad to read about it having an earlier honorable past, and a positive future.

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