California Musical Theatre has turned out the lights and dropped the curtain on the Cosmopolitan Cabaret.
CMT will no longer operate the 200-seat theater at the corner of 10th and K Streets, which it opened in 2008. Last week CMT executive producer Richard Lewis asked his board of directors to sign off on an agreement terminating their lease with developer David Taylor, who owns the building.
The state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems will not go unused for long, however, as restaurateur Randy Paragary will take over operation of the theater space to create a nightclub he plans to call The Assembly. He will open the new club March 1 and intends to have acts booked every night.
"I'm going in there because I'm joined at the hip with the space," Paragary said. "It was always an integral part of the business plan because a significant part of our dinner business came from people going to the show. So that space was very important to us."
The Cabaret has shared the ground floor of the Cosmopolitan building with Cafe Bernardo on K (formerly the Cosmo Cafe) and the KBar, all operated by the Paragary Restaurant Group. The nightclub Social occupies the building's second floor.
Paragary plans to adapt and slightly renovate the Cabaret space to be a part of the young, active nightlife hub on the block, which already includes KBar, Dive Bar, Pizza Rock and Social.
"What we intend to do fits the demographic of what is happening down there," Paragary said.
He will add a bar to the performance space and booths on the first level of raised seating. He said he'll work with local promoters to book a broad variety of entertainers into the facility. He also has an agreement with B Street Theatre to bring in its sketch comedy troupe four nights a week.
The cabaret has been dark since the Nov. 18 closing of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," and the company's last show in the facility will be a CMT fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. today with Broadway vocalist Eric Kunze.
The Cosmo Cabaret opened in September 2008, a $15 million joint effort of developer David Taylor and real estate investors CIM Group; along with Randy Paragary and CMT.
"Richard Lewis deserves a lot of credit for getting this space built, because our community needs this type and size of venue," Paragary said.
Lewis formulated a plan for the space in 2006, suggesting the theater to city officials who were desperate for ideas to develop the then-abandoned former Woolworth's store.
CMT operates the 2,200- seat Wells Fargo Pavilion for its summer Music Circus season and presents national touring companies in the 2,422-seat Community Center Theater through its Broadway Sacramento Series, but thought it might also work with a smaller space.
Lewis had seen other musical theater companies successfully operate smaller spaces. Smaller productions typically had longer runs, often a year or more, which made them attractive financially.
"What we hoped to do was repeat the success, in particular of Denver, where you pick a show like 'I Love, You're Perfect' or 'Forever Plaid' and it runs for three or four years," Lewis said.
The Cosmo Cabaret audience averaged about 50 percent capacity, significantly less than CMT needed for the venture to succeed.
At the beginning, Lewis said, his hope was "65 percent to really make it, with the upside being we should be able to get to 80 percent."
Things didn't worked out in Sacramento for a number of reasons, insiders said.
"What Richard and I didn't see coming, of course, was the recession and how it hit the state and our businesses," Paragary said.
In addition, an evolution of the area and the businesses was taking place up and down the block.
CMT marketed its shows like "Forever Plaid" and "Late Nite Catechism" to its older Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento subscriber base, for whom downtown K Street at night seemed a world apart.
"The simplest thing to say, I guess, is it turned out that the Cabaret was a bridge too far for California Musical Theatre, all things considered," Lewis said.
Yet the night life in the area has drawn a much younger crowd, and that's what Paragary will tailor the new venue to fit.
"It's going to be a place where people can have fun at a bar with live music. There are lot of acts out there who can't play a Memorial Auditorium-size venue, but they want to play somewhere," Paragary said. "I'm pretty jacked-up about it, really."
Paragary is still filling out the entertainment so that the space can be open every night of the week.
"I think it's going to be a terrific option for Sacramento as far as a venue," Paragary said.