If you missed it when it premiered at the recent Sidewalk Film Festival, you can catch “Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre,” about the life and death and rebirth of a Birmingham treasure, on Alabama Public Television tonight at 8.
Produced and directed by another Birmingham treasure, Norton Dill, “Restoration” tells the history of the Lyric, the downtown theater born as a vaudeville house around the turn of the 20th century, eventually closed for four decades, restored and, in 2016, reopened as a glorious venue.
The documentary premiered at the Lyric during the Sidewalk Film Festival.
“I’ll have to say that after working on this film for so long, it was truly a thrill to see and hear the response from the audience,” Dill says. “We had a very good crowd, and I simply couldn’t ask for a better response. … It’s also rewarding to know that, in some small way, I’ve helped to bring some of the Lyric’s long-lost stories back to life.”
Dill is behind the camera, along with executive producer George McMillan, associate producer Will Hall and creative consultant Guy McCullough. There are many Birmingham stalwarts interviewed in the film, including, just to name a few, former Mayor William Bell, musician Bobby Horton, and Brant Beene and Glenny Brock, both instrumental in bringing back the Lyric. Others featured include Anthony Slide, a film and vaudeville historian, and Jeff Greene, a theater restoration expert.
The story of the Lyric is fascinating with all of its ups and downs. It was a popular vaudeville stop, hosting performers such as Mae West, Will Rogers, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers. In the 1960s, it closed, and it didn’t open its doors again until 2016, 102 years after it first opened. Since then, it has once again become one of Birmingham’s premiere live venues.
Also coming up for Dill is “Mighty: The Life and Legacy of Pat Dye,” which airs Monday, Sept. 25, at 8 p.m., also on APT.
The documentary about the famed Auburn football coach was “a collaborative effort,” says Dill, who was the film’s cinematographer and music director. He also directed the interview segments.
“Mighty” was commissioned by Jimmy Rane, founder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving and a member of the Auburn board of trustees.