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Lyric Theatre Benefit

Birmingham Vaudeville Company rounds up a variety of acts for Summer Solstice benefit show

The Alabama Theatre’s stage in Birmingham went vaudeville recently when Summer Solstice, a benefit show for the historic Lyric Theatre, was presented in the 1927 movie palace. Scott Autrey’s Birmingham Vaudeville Company brought a variety of entertainment with flavors of the vaudeville era to the event sponsored by World of Beer in Five Points on Southside.

The Lyric Theatre was built in 1914 and was used exclusively for vaudeville acts. Many well-known movie stars got their start in vaudeville and appeared on stage at the Lyric, including the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Mae West, Milton Berle, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Will Rogers. After the vaudeville days, the Lyric operated as a movie theater more than likely showing the movies of some of the same stars that once graced its stage. The theater also operated as a show venue during these times and finally closed in 1959. Proceeds from the Summer Solstice show will be used in the ongoing restoration of the Lyric Theatre.

Autrey spoke about the talent of Birmingham entertainers and the importance of the revival of the Lyric Theatre as a venue for this talent. With the humorous veneer of a vaudeville showman, he introduced the various acts which included circus feats, fusion bellydance, a ukulele-playing comedian and, of all things, a radio which was treated as a member of the cast and brought out for final bows.

The radio was the first act. Autrey explained the role of the radio in entertainment in vaudeville times. He then turned on the radio to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and the audience listened to a sampling of old-time radio.

Two dancers from Erynias Tribe, a Birmingham fusion bellydance company, performed their dance art gracefully to exotic music.

 

Brooke Schwartz and Raven Thrasher danced twice during the show, captivating the audience each time with their smooth movements.

Rich Mansfield, a professional funnyman, sang amusing songs of his own composition while playing the ukulele. The songs included a really funny one about a grown man who still lived at his mom’s house.

Crescent Circus performers Morgan Tsu-Raun and Nathan Kepner kept the audience’s attention with a series of skillful magic, juggling and hula-hoop acts.

While the magic tricks were fairly standard, Kepner executed them exceptionally well. Even seamlessly, since he kept his sleeves rolled up for the duration of the tricks, and it was impossible to guess where he was concealing objects. He went from magic to juggling balls in unusual positions— behind his back, upside down—with the assistance of his partner Tsu-Raun. Humor was threaded throughout the act and Kepner ended with juggling knives.

Tsu Raun is a hula-hoop twirler extraordinaire. She kept multiple hoops spinning on more parts of her anatomy than seems humanly possible and looked like she was having fun.

All the acts—the bellydancers, funnyman, magician/juggler and hula-hoopist—were very entertaining and left me wondering, “How did he do that? How did she do that? How did they do that?”

If you’re wondering how you can help revive the Lyric Theatre or find out more about its interesting history, visit:
                       http://www.lightupthelyric.com.
    
                                                           —Mary McCord, Editor
                                                                           Posted 6-24-13

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Lyric Theatre

THE LIGHTING OF THE LYRIC—After more than five decades of darkness, the Lyric, an old vaudeville theatre in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, was lit up recently. The lighting was a celebration of the restoration so far and the successful "Light Up The Lyric" fund-raising campaign which has already collected $5.8 million of the $7 million goal. The Lyric Theatre opened in January, 1914. Many well-known movie stars got their start in vaudeville and appeared on stage at the Lyric, including Mae West, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Will Rogers and more. Renown for its "pin drop" acoustics, its architecture resembles the "bell" of a trumpet, allowing for maximum voice projection. Milton Berle, who worked the Lyric, said it was "as fine a theatre as any in New York."
After the vaudeville days, the Lyric operated as a movie theater more than likely showing the movies of some of the same stars that once graced its stage. When restoration is completed, the Lyric Theatre will be a performing arts center. For more information, go to: http://www.lightupthelyric.com.