In March of 1990, the South Shore Playhouse Associates purchased the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis from William Carmen and have since made numerous improvements there, also including a new state-of-the-art vinyl tent with Cupola venting system, new seats, new stage and computerized lighting and sound systems.
The resident theatre company is gone, replaced by touring performers of world-class caliber, including Tony Bennett, Linda Ronstadt, the Irish Tenors, Vince Gill, the Moody Blues, Crosby Stills Nash, Carole King, Melissa Etheridge, Wynonna, Bruce Hornsby, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Rogers, B. King, Fuel, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jo Dee Messina, Alice Cooper, Willie Nelson, Hall & Oates, Chris Isaak, Darius Rucker, Blues Traveler, the Doobie Brothers, Joe Cocker, John Hiatt, Robert Cray, Lyle Lovett, Huey Lewis, Little Big Town, Chicago, the Beach Boys, KC & the Sunshine Band, the Indigo Girls, Ani Di Franco, Aimee Mann, Aretha Franklin, Little Feat, the Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, Jonny Lang, Lisa Marie Presley, Hanson, Linda Eder, the Gipsy Kings and the Boston Pops.
It was around this time that the first tent theatres began operating on the east coast, the first in New Jersey, the second in Florida.
When famed English actress Gertrude Lawrence viewed the Florida tent theatre, she convinced her husband, Richard Aldrich, that New England would be a great location for this summer theatre concept.
In 1975, the main theatre bowl was converted from old-fashioned wooden risers to an attractive, modern concrete structure, while staircases and aisle openings were redesigned, greatly improving audience access and sightlines.
Horse stalls were torn down, buildings hauled away and new structures appeared in their places.
Vestiges of the “horse grounds” still exist today – the grassy area in the parking lot was once part of the Bancroft’s horse ring and is maintained as a tribute to the theatre’s origin.
The actress and her husband first approached the South Shore Players with the idea for a tent theatre for musicals, but at the time it didn’t coincide with the theatre they envisioned.
There was, however, interest in Hyannis, so in 1950, the Cape Cod Music Circus (now the Cape Cod Melody Tent) became the third musical tent to open in the US.