By Sarah Plummer
With the finishing touches going into The Raleigh Playhouse in Uptown Beckley, owner Dan Bickey’s vision of the “downtown becoming a destination” is finally taking shape.
It’s hard to take a drive or a stroll through Beckley’s downtown without seeing The Raleigh Playhouse’s marquee; a marquee Bickey explains is one-of-a-kind. The marquee is the first 12-millimeter resolution marquee in the United States. It can be clearly seen at night, during the day, far away, and even from directly below the screen, he said.
And Bickey expects the marquee itself to be an important addition to the downtown with its speakers and the ability to play movies on its screen. He expects to be able to play full-length movies during festivals or for special events so the public can bring lawn chairs and enjoy them from Word Park.
The high-tech Raleigh Playhouse’s exterior is just the tip of the iceberg.
Inside patrons will see gorgeous raised cherry panels leading into a theater space with around 200 seats, about the same size as Tamarack’s theater space, Bickey said. Patrons can expect comfortable seats and fresh popcorn and drinks to be concessioned during the films.
Bickey said he hopes to focus on showing films from “The Golden Age of Hollywood” through the 1960s and acoustic tiles will make this space’s acoustics rival other spaces in the area, he said.
And most importantly, The Raleigh Playhouse, under the guidance of artistic director George Bickey, anticipates having live plays year-round. The owner explained the plays will be from a variety of genres, from mysteries to comedies, with local and equity actors. Bickey also expects to offer dinner theater productions in conjunction with his McBee’s Irish Pub, located a few steps away from the new playhouse.
“I want us to have the best looking downtown in the area. Beckley is becoming more cosmopolitan because we are getting more amenities, venues to sell art and a playhouse — all places that travelers will want to stop and spend time,” he said.
He expects to draw locals and tourists with the playhouse, filling a niche in the area.
The downstairs in The Raleigh Playhouse has been transformed into a rich and exclusive-feeling club Bickey has dubbed Sir Walter’s Tavern. The tavern will feature live rhythm and blues and jazz on an intimate stage.
Bickey said the tavern will offer a limited menu of robust sandwiches, salads and soups.
The Raleigh Playhouse will soon announce its full theatrical season and film schedule.
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