Early Theatrical Productions

There was one main reason the Mishler was able to attract the very best in theatrical entertainment – its geographical location on the PRR main line. Altoona was a convenient first day’s stop for road shows coming out of New York and Philadelphia on tour.

The theatre also became known for a discriminating audience, whose attitude toward the production was often a preview of opinion at other stops on the tour. In other words, if the show went well in Altoona, it was a good sign.

George Burns, the famous stand-up comedian with the cigar-chomping monologue and the husky voice, used this idea to form the title of a book of memories They loved me in Altoona.

Information gathered from local newspapers, personal interviews, and surviving Mishler Theatre playbills gives us an overview of the many famous performers who graced the stage of the Mishler.


  • Eleanor Robson in Merely MariAnn
  • Eva Tanguay in The Sambo Girl
  • Robert Mantell, the Shakespearian actor, in King Lear
  • Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink


  • 1907
  • 1907 W.C. Fields in The Ham Tree
  • Sousa and his bands
  • Maude Adams in  Peter Pan
  • Wright Lorimer in The Shepherd King
  • The musical comedy Happy Hooligan in New York
  • Happy Hooligan’s Trip Around the Worlds

1908 – 1909

1908 and 1909 were largely devoted to vaudeville, minstrel and burlesque entertainment that included:

  • Minerva Queen of Handcuffs
  • The London Belles and Two Midgets in The Prince of Petticoats
  • Follies of the Day, featuring Miss Louise Doerre
  • Moulin Rouge with Violette Dusette, billed as the ugliest woman in the word
  • Charming Widows


  • William Faversham in The Squaw Man
  • Raymond Hitchcock in The Man Who Owns Broadway

The Age of Talkies

In 1913 something new came to the Mishler. Billed as the “most marvelous invention of the age” – The Genuine Thomas A. Edison Talking Motion Pictures – this invention, dismissed as a curiosity, was to have a profound effect on the Mishler Theatre and, ultimately on the world of entertainment.

Mr. Mishler, being the astute showman that he was, was not long in seeing new possibilities for his theatre. Local papers carried the announcement that the installation of a cooling plant in the Mishler had made it eminently suitable for showing summer movies. He was quick to point out that his programs would not interfere with other houses in town, since only “educational, travel and great plays of the highest quality” would be shown.


  • Sara Bernhardt in Camille
  • Lillian Russell who played In Search of a Sinner
  • Gallagher and Shean in their dialogue Big Banner Show
  • Ethel Barrymore in Witness for the Defense
  • Harry Lauder and Company


  • Ed Wynn in Sunny South Troubadours
  • Elsie Janis in The Slim Princess
  • Elbert Hubbard in his lecture Brotherhood of Man
  • Trixie Friganza in Sweetest Girl in Paris
  • Eddie Foy in Over the River
  • Fritzi Scheff in The Love Wager

1913 – 1914

  • Mutt and Jeff In Panama
  • Mutt and Jeff In Mexico
  • Divorced
  • At the Races
  • The Great Magician, Thurston

The End of an Era

With the advent of the “talkies”, it was becoming more and more difficult to schedule road shows, and in 1923, 61 year old Isaac Mishler expressed a desire to retire from show business, and the Mishler was offered for sale.

It was not until January of 1931 that the Mishler was sold to A. Notopolous, owner of several motion picture theatres. From that time until the 1960’s the theatre was used primarily for movies, with an annual recital by the Ruth Barnes School of Dance.

1915 – 1918

  • 1915:  Ellen Terry, Maude Adams, Quality Street
  • 1916:  George Arliss
  • 1917:  Al Jolson
  • 1918: Helen Hayes, Houdini, Lillian Russell in Wildfire

1919 -1931

In 1919, 1920, and 1921, the movies replaced stage shows more and more. In May of 1919 there were 14 days devoted to movies, and in June of that year there was nothing but movies in the Mishler.

  • 1919:  Violinist Jascha Heifitz, Boxer Jack Dempsey
  • 1920:  Isadora Duncan
  • 1921:  Katzenjammer Kids
  • 1922 George Jessel
  • 1923:  Rachmaninoff, Irene Castle with Dances and Fashions of the Year, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn


1980 – 1990

  • 1981: Mishler Theatre Jubilation ’75 Featuring Peter Nero, Diahann Carroll, Gordon MacRae, Anna Maria Alberghetti

1991 – 2000

  • March 1994:  John Chappell in Mark Twain on Stage
  • May 1994: River City Brass Band
  • March 1995:  Anything Goes
  • May 1996: The Amazing Kreskin
  • May 1996: Rita McKenzie in Ethel Merman’s Broadway
  • December 1996: Mandy Patinkin in Concert
  • March 1997: Jamie Farr and William Christopher in The Odd Couple
  • December 1997: Bernadette Peters in Concert
  • November 1998: Betty Buckley in Concert
  • December 1998: Miracle on 34th Street
  • April 1999: Paul Anka in Concert
  • October 1999: Gary Burghoff in Last of the Red Hot Lovers
  • April 2000: Platters, Drifters and Coasters
  • October 2000: Governor’s Awards for the Art, Governor Tom Ridge, The Paul Winter Consort


2001 – 2010

  • March 2001: U.S. Navy Band in Concert
  • March 2001: Skyliners, Marcels, Little Eva, and Don & Juan
  • September 2001: Phil Dirt and the Dozers
  • October 2001: Mandy Patinkin in Concert
  • March 2002: Jeff Weiler, Organist/Silent Film Accompanist
  • March 2002: Three Irish Tenors
  • March 2002: Russian National Ballet’s Swan Lake
  • March 2002: In My Father’s Eyes
  • April 2002: Bobby Rydell and the Shangrilas
  • October 2002: Paul Winter’s One on One
  • October 2002: Little Anthony and the Imperials
  • March 2003: Crazy for You
  • March 2003: Ozark Jubilee
  • June 2003: Rabbi Burt Schuman’s An Evening of Total Self Indulgence
  • September 2003: Magic with The Beckers
  • October 2003: Phil Dirt and the Dozers
  • March 2004: String of Pearls In the Mood
  • December 2004: Ty Herndon
  • March 2005: My One and Only
  • April 2005: Opera Verdi Europa’s Carmen
  • September 2005: Porches
  • October 2005: Martin Preston’s Liberace Tribute
  • November 2005: P & J Productions’ A Christmas Caroled
  • March 2006: Jack Jones in Concert
  • March 2006: Frank Ferrante’s An Evening with Groucho
  • October 2006: P & J Productions’ Ghosts the Musical
  • November 2006: P & J Productions’ A Christmas Caroled
  • March 2007: Late Nite Catechism
  • March 2008: Forbidden Broadway
  • October 2008: P & J Productions’ Sherwood
  • March 2009: Lucie Arnaz
  • March 2010: A Scandalous Affair… Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald Tribute

2011 to present

  • March 2011: Redneck Tenors
  • April 2011: P & J Productions’ Ghosts the Musical Movie Premier
  • June 2011: P & J Productions’ Chicago
  • December 2011: P & J Productions’ A Christmas Caroled
  • March 2012: Steve Lippia’s Simply Sinatra
  • June 2012: P & J Productions’ Cats
  • June 2012: Air National Guard Band
  • September 2012: Mike Reid in Concert
  • September 2012: Altoona Community Theatre’s Fox on the Fairway
  • October 2012: P & J Productions’ Chicago
  • November 2012: Altoona Community Theatre’s A Christmas Carol
  • December 2012: Oh What A Night…Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Tribute
  • February 2013: Altoona Community Theatre’s Noises Off
  • March 2013: Night Fever… ABBA & Bee Gees Tribute
  • March 2013: Good Vibrations … Beach Boys Tribute
  • March 2013: Tony Sands’ It Was a Very Good Year Sinatra Tribute
  • May 2013 Altoona Community Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • June 2013: Vaudeville Returns to the Mishler
  • August 2013: Menopause the Musical
  • September 2013: Altoona Community Theatre’s Barefoot in the Park
  • October 2013: P & J Productions’ Les Miserables
  • November 2013: Altoona Community Theatre’s Annie
  • January 2014: Bruce in the USA…Tribute to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
  • February 2014: Altoona Community Theatre’s The Crucible
  • March 2014: Who’s Bad…The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute
  • April 2014: Chris Collins’ …Tribute to John Denver
  • May 2014: Altoona Community Theatre’s Sweeney Todd
  • May 2014: Vicki Lawrence…40th Anniversary Tour
Additional Performers

Famous Performers

Performers and attractions that have been known to have appeared, but for which dates of performances are not known:

  • Ben Hur with a cast of hundreds and an on-stage chariot race
  • Dandies & Gibson Girls
  • The Ziegfield Follies
  • Earl Carroll’s Vanities
  • George White’s Scandals
  • Geraldine Farrar
  • Galli-Curci
  • Albert Spaulding
  • Efram Zimbalist
  • Otis Skinner
  • George Raft
  • Anna Pavlowa and her Corps de Ballet of 70 danced to the music of its own symphony orchestra, and Miss Pavlowa, attired in a white feathered costume, danced her famous Swan Ballet.
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