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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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After renovations, Orpheum Theatre focuses on live events
The big stage is back

The Orpheum Theatre's Lobby Restaurant has closed, at least temporarily, as the building enters yet another phase in its long life. Thanks to remodeling, it's now primarily a venue for live entertainment.

"With the new renovation, [the Orpheum] is in better shape physically and maybe financially than it has been in decades," says co-owner Henry Doane.

The 1926 movie and vaudeville palace's full stage has been restored. The backstage area had been walled off in the 1960s to create the Stage Door, an associated, smaller movie theater. What remained of the Orpheum's stage was too small for convenient use by live performers, who are now the theater's main business.

"I've known for years that this stage renovation needed to be done, and I'm glad it has been," says Doane. "It should quickly become a world-class music venue and a great alternative to Overture's more middle-of-the-road, sit-in-your seat type of shows."

The restaurant closed Nov. 13. It may reopen in the spring but, with more events being booked, "it's hard to operate a business that doesn't keep regular hours," says Doane. "This was an ongoing issue and hurt the restaurant over time. People would show up on a Saturday and were met with a sign saying, 'Closed for special event, sorry for the inconvenience.'"

The Orpheum continues to book concerts, weddings and other gatherings. It had already ceased its regular motion picture schedule in April. "For now, the public should look forward to a much-improved music and special-events venue," says Doane.

He wryly adds, "The Orpheum really belongs to the community. Anybody who owns it is just a caretaker, a janitor and a glutton for punishment."

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