The Atlanta Lyric Theatre

Atlanta Lyric Theatre moving to Marietta Square

Wendell Brock, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 8, 2008

Since Brandt Blocker took over the Atlanta Lyric Theatre in May 2007, the city’s performing arts community has been abuzz about the heightened quality of work at the 28-year-old ensemble.

Now the Louisiana native is guiding the troupe to a new home on Marietta’s picturesque town square. In December, the Atlanta Lyric Theatre will become the resident musical theater company of the Strand Theatre, a historic 1935 Art Deco movie theater that’s undergoing a $4.5 million renovation.

“It’s going to be like a mini-Fox Theatre,” the 35-year-old artistic director and general manager of the Lyric said. “It’s really going to be an event theater.”

The move was announced at a festive Friday morning ceremony, featuring a jazz band under the square’s Victorian gazebo. “I’m from New Orleans,” Blocker joked to the crowd. “We don’t do anything without a jazz band.”

He then unveiled an impressive six-show season that will include Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” the regional premiere of “The It Girl” and “The Pirates of Penzance,” a nod to the company’s origins as a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe called the Savoyards.

“This really is right in the sweet spot of where we need to be and want to be,” Lyric board chair Steve Hauser said. The Coca-Cola executive said the Lyric has been “caught between two venues,” Georgia Tech’s large and expensive-to-rent Ferst Center and the small Byers Studio Theatre at its administrative offices off Northside Drive.

“I was so impressed with the people from the Lyric and with their commitment to excellence in the arts,” Strand executive director Earl Reece said.

The Strand and the Lyric began conversations about the partnership on June 4. Now the Lyric is adding an orchestra pit and fly space for scenery.

After a six-year fund-raising and restoration effort, the Earl Smith Strand Theatre, named for the former Cobb County Commission chair, will have its grand opening in January. “Beauty and Beast” (Dec. 5-21) will be the new venue’s first professional theater production.

Quoting the inscription on the marble facade of the Strand — “A monument devoted to the best in music, photoplays and theatrical arts” — Reece said: “I think they must have known that we were going to make this announcement today.”

The complete Lyric season:

“Beauty and the Beast.” Dec. 5-21. “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Jan. 16-Feb. 1 “The It Girl.” March 6-22. “The Pirates of Penzance.” April 24-May 10. “Chicago.” June 12-28. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” March 14 and March 21.

Season tickets on sale Sept. 1. $150 for the five adult shows. Single tickets, $30-$35. 404-377-9948, atlantalyrictheatre.com. For more information about the Strand, check out its website: friendsofthestrand.org

The Atlanta Lyric Theatre