Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Ala. PHOTO BY JOSEPH DE SCIOSE.

Southern Revival

Birmingham meticulously restores a charming piece of its history

BY MICHAEL SHAPIRO — Fall 2016

Earlier this year in downtown Birmingham, Ala., civic-minded locals switched the lights back on again at the Lyric Theatre, one of the city’s grand historic showplaces. The stylish beaux-arts venue first opened in 1914 to host vaudeville shows, with big-name draws such as the Marx Brothers and Mae West taking bows on its stage. The theater’s heyday lasted until the Great Depression in the late 1920s, when few people had the means to attend performances. That tough economic period forced the conversion of the Lyric into a movie theater in the 1930s, and it then became an adult cinema in the 1970s before closing in the early ’80s.

A “Light Up the Lyric” fundraising campaign launched in 2012 by a 501(c)(3) organization called Birmingham Landmarks raised more than $8 million for the theater’s refurbishment, with construction work beginning in 2014. Its curtain went back up this year with a range of shows on tap, from a series of vaudeville acts on opening weekend to popular performers such as musicians Boz Scaggs and Mavis Staples and comedian Lewis Black.

Everything about attending a show at the Lyric is a joy, from seeing the gorgeous chandeliers and scalloped balconies to the comfortable chairs and phenomenal acoustics. 205-216-3118; lyricbham.com

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