New laughs at Rascals

Comedy club chain has taken over at Power Plant Live where the Improv left off

July 20, 2006|By SAM SESSA | SAM SESSA,SUN REPORTER

One afternoon last week, Entertainment Director Ed Cavanagh walked through rows of empty tables and chairs in Rascals, Power Plant Live's new comedy club. He paused briefly to straighten the furniture, then took a moment to think about the space's future.

"It's going to be a fun room," Cavanagh said. "When this is packed, it's going to be a solid room."

Rascals, which opened last month in the Improv's former space, throws its official grand opening shows this weekend. Comedian and TV actor Bill Burr performs tomorrow and Saturday nights.

Cavanagh helps manage the three Rascals locations - Montclair and Cherry Hill, N.J., are the other two - and recently came to Baltimore to get the new club on its feet. Rascals' biggest challenge will be attracting enough people to consistently fill the place on Thursday and Friday nights, Cavanagh said.

"We've definitely got the relationship with the big-name comics," Cavanagh said. " You always have to be on your A-game to get people."

The Baltimore Improv comedy club closed suddenly last fall, citing loud noise and disorderly crowds in Power Plant Live's plaza. Soon after, the Cordish Company, which owns Power Plant Live, began looking for a replacement. Reed Cordish, the company's vice president, said they had other offers for the space but decided on keeping it standup comedy.

"We realized that a top-level comedy club fits in very well with our entertainment offerings at Power Plant Live," Cordish said. "It's a great fit and great synergy for Power Plant Live."

Though Rascals' main focus is on regionally and nationally touring comedians, the 370-capacity club will also host local talent shows, Cavanagh said. For the past several Sundays, local comedian showcases have been one of the club's bigger draws, he said. He originally planned for only one, but extended the showcase series to four dates through next month because of the strong response, he said.

Rascals has a limited menu of mostly fried foods such as chicken fingers, wings and mozzarella sticks. Cavanagh said they might expand the menu slightly in the near future but not to the full-fledged dinners the Improv offered.

Cavanagh said he would like to see performers on a par with D.L. Hughley, Greg Geraldo or Brian Regan. In the next few months, he hopes to bring in audiences filled with tourists and local regulars.

"With the Improv having been out for a year, there's still a lot of people who don't know we're open yet or who aren't familiar with us," Cavanagh said. "It's going to take a little time for us to slam our Thursdays and Fridays, but we're going to get there. Week by week as we've been doing our previews, it's grown and grown, and it's going to get bigger."

Rascals is at 6 Market Place in Power Plant Live. Bill Burr performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. tomorrow and 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20. Call 410-545-0590 or visit rascals.net.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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