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Variety Playhouse: first look at renovated venue, set to reopen in September

Brad Syna, manager of Variety Playhouse, stands in a new area between the bar and the floor seats. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Brad Syna, manager of Variety Playhouse, stands in a new area between the bar and the floor seats. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

It’s rare that any renovations are completed on time, never mind a $1.3 million overhaul of a 1,000-capacity venue.

But when the Variety Playhouse closed in late May, its projected return was the end of September.

That timetable remains accurate, and fans are slated to get their first look at the changes at a Sept. 28 concert with ambient music producer Tycho.

“We all still love the place,” said longtime manager Brad Syna during a tour of the facility, which opened in 1989, in late August. “There will be differences, but hopefully people will like them. People will be able to see better, we’re going to do our best to make it sound great, it will be easier to get a drink and hopefully some things that people didn’t like in the past, we’ve addressed.”

A view from the stage. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

A view from the stage. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Here are some of the new-look changes at the Little Five Points venue after its first major revamp since its mid-‘80s incarnation as Ellis Cinema.

  • The front bar is double the space of its predecessor and patrons can see through to the stage. Credit cards will now be accepted.
  • A set of men’s and women’s bathrooms have been added downstairs (flanking the bar area).
  • Gone is the carpeting from the side sections of the floor seating area — it’s now concrete.
  • New permanent seats downstairs. Photo: Brad Syna

    New permanent seats downstairs. Photo: Brad Syna

    Permanent chairs are movie theater-esque, with thicker padding and a composition of metal and vinyl. The floor has also been raised slightly. “Our hope is that people won’t have to stand up to see, and we might do some reserved seating for some shows,” Syna said.

  • A space that is 58 feet long and 23 feet deep will be used as a pit area in the front of the stage. Temporary seating can be placed there for shows that attract an older audience or comedy performances.
  • The balcony is newly reinforced with steel. Since the balcony chairs were replaced in recent years, they will not change.
  • The upstairs bar is double the space of its predecessor, and a large open space in front of it will negate the cramped elbowing of old.
  • Red curtains will be installed on the sides of the balcony to help with sound and also make the room pop with color.

Construction at Variety Playhouse began in June, and while there is still much to be finished before the reopening later this month, Syna is confident they won’t have a repeat of a stressful incident that occurred during work on the balcony in 2009.

“It was the night of Adele — the only time she’s played Atlanta (at that time),” Syna said, smiling at the memory. “And while she’s onstage sound-checking, they’re still welding the banisters.”

Hello, Tycho? Just be prepared.

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UPCOMING SHOWS AT VARIETY PLAYHOUSE

Sept. 28: Tycho

Sept. 30: Family and Friends

Oct. 1: Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

Oct. 2: Sarah Jarosz and Parker Millsap

Oct. 6: The Oh Hellos

Oct. 7: John Paul White

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.variety-playhouse.com.



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