Historic theater in Birmingham, Alabama gets a glittering $11.5 million rebirth

Step inside the Lyric Theatre today, and you might feel as if you’re encased in a small, glittering jewel box.

The 102-year-old theater fairly glows with historic charm, adorned by elegant plaster cupids, burnished wood, smooth marble and shimmering gold paint.

Chandeliers hang from the ornately stenciled ceiling. Opera boxes curve in graceful arcs. Thick blue curtains shelter a stage that once welcomed stars such as Mae West, Sophie Tucker, the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle.

But it wasn’t always this way. The Lyric — built in 1914 as an intimate vaudeville house with pin-drop acoustics — spent decades in downtown Birmingham as a dark and crumbling ruin.

The building’s essential structure remained strong, made of concrete and steel. But the theater at 1800 Third Ave. North existed as a shadow of its former self.

Its heyday long past, the Lyric sat in silence — damaged by water and weather, prey to the ravages of time.

When we first got here, it was like King Tut’s tomb,” says Brant Beene, executive director of Birmingham Landmarks, a nonprofit organization that owns the Lyric. “It was really a sight to see.

Birmingham Landmarks, which acquired the Lyric in 1993, spent more than 20 years figuring out how to revive the theater — and just as important, making sure enough money was raised to pay for such a massive project.

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