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Barrymore to debut new seats Thursday for Justin Hayward concert

August 28, 2018

On Thursday night, music lovers will get their first chance to try the Barrymore Theatre’s new seats when the venue holds its grand reopening concert with a performance by Justin Hayward, “the voice” of the Moody Blues.

The 88-year-old theater, 2090 Atwood Ave., is about 20 percent of the way toward its goal of raising $250,000 in its “bottom to top chair-ity appeal,” an effort to pay for its 755 new blue seats.

Still, the new seats were installed the week of Aug. 13, and Steve Sperling, the theater’s general manager, said the theater will possibly need to take out loans to pay for the rest if it can’t raise the full amount.

And the $50 tickets for Hayward aren’t selling as well as Sperling expected. He’s not sure why. “If you go online and look up reviews of the shows, they’re all really great reviews,” he said.

The Barrymore shut down the third week of June for the upgrades. The 755 well-worn seats were last replaced in 1967.

House manager Zach Richmond, is thrilled to show off the new seats and other improvements made to the theater over the summer including new paint, new flooring and new aisle carpeting.

“I am so excited for people who have been coming here for years and for so many unique events to see how beautiful it looks,” he said. “It’s a huge initial phase of renovations and I couldn’t be prouder of my co-workers and the neighborhood that supports us.”

Richmond climbed into the crawl space above the ceiling and replaced the burned out lights in the ceiling that twinkle. “It was approximately 1 million degrees up there,” he said.

The theater is well known for its twinkling star lights with performers often remarking on them during shows. Richmond estimated there are about 60 stars in the ceiling and about half of them had gone out.

Ginny Jenkins, the theater’s other house manager, said they had wanted to change the stars to LED light bulbs, but then they wouldn’t blink. Jenkins, pointing out the big dipper, said the stars are arranged in constellations.

“The stars are one of everybody’s favorite amenities at the Barrymore. We get a lot of feedback on the stars,” she said.

Richmond said the bulbs are 11-watt incandescents. A couple of electrical relays make them twinkle at different speeds. It’s similar to how the theater’s marquee works, he said.

The theater with its Italian Renaissance-style octagonal green dome, is an independent, community-based theater. It’s seen as the emotional, cultural and architectural heart of the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood.

It’s a for-profit business owned by the nonprofit Atwood Barrymore Corp., which was formerly the Schenk-Atwood Revitalization Association.

Proceeds from the Barrymore go back into supporting the theater and its programs, Barrymore board member Heather Good said. “There are no shareholders or corporate owners who profit from it.”

Jenkins said that most of the donations to the theater came through crowdfunding. “We’re still optimistic,” she said. “We’re going to continue raising funds throughout the year.”

The theater’s staff has been been focused on getting the project done, while its board has mainly handled the fundraising efforts, Jenkins said.

The Barrymore also replaced the folding chairs that are set up in the front of the theater for seated shows. There will be 72 new folding chairs, Jenkins said.

For now, she’s hoping most of the new seats get filled Thursday night. “We could use a bigger kick, that’s for sure,” Jenkins said.

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