Robins Theater Warren

Robins Theatre Returns to Its Roots with Opening Act

WARREN, Ohio – After two years of renovation work, the Robins Theatre will reopen with a salute to its roots with a concert by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

The grand reopening act, set for Jan. 9 2020, comes 97 years to the day of its original opening. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was selected as the first act because of its throwback look and sound, said Mark Marvin, president of Downtown Development Group, which has undertaken the $5 to $7 million theater restoration project.

“They do the swing music and wear zoot suits,” said Marvin.

The Robins Theatre, 160 E. Market Street, had sat empty since 1974 before Downtown Development Group began work in early 2018.

On Monday, the project leaders gave an update on its progress, and unveiled the first wave of scheduled entertainment, which also includes comedian Lisa Lampanelli, acoustic-rock band America, classic rockers Blue Oyster Cult and five musicals by Millennial Theatre Co. 

The theater will actually first open to the public on Dec. 7 with First Snow, a tribute to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The show is heavy on lighting and other technical aspects and will be a sort of a shakedown cruise for the venue.

“We want to work all the bugs out with it,” said Ken Haidaris, president of Sunrise Entertainment, which will handle all booking along with Tom Simpson, who owns Kent Stage in Kent.

“The first act was going to be [comedian] Lisa Lampanelli, but she gets a bit raunchy and we didn’t want to be remembered that way,” Haidaris said with a laugh. “So we made her second.”

Tickets will go on sale at on Thursday and at the box office on Friday. The box office will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Here is the full schedule:

  • Dec. 7: First Snow, 8 p.m.
  • Jan. 9: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, 8 p.m.
  • Jan. 10: Comedian Lisa Lampanelli, 8 p.m.
  • Jan. 11: Firefall, Pure Prairie League and Orleans, 8 p.m.
  • Jan. 17: America, 8 p.m.
  • Jan. 23: Abbamania, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 7-9: “The Odd Couple,” starring local newscasters Jim Loboy and Len Rome, 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee.
  • Feb. 14: Dean Lives, Dean Martin tribute show for Valentine’s Day, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 15: Escape, a Journey tribute band, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 22: Animaniacs, animated TV show, in concert, 8 p.m.
  • March 8: Blue Oyster Cult, 7:30 p.m.
  • March 13-15: “Shrek, the Musical,” by Millennial Theatre Co., 8 p.m., with a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.
  • March 20: Poco and Atlanta Rhythm Section, 8 p.m.
  • May 29-31: “Heathers, the Musical,” by Millennial, 8 p.m. with a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.
  • July 31-Aug.2: A musical by Millennial Theatre Co. to be announced later.
  • Oct. 30-31: “The Rocky Horror Show,” 8 p.m. and midnight.
  • Dec. 11-13: “Hairspray,” by Millennial, 8 p.m. with a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.

Further dates will be filled in with classic movies and a talk series hosted by former boxing champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is also planned.

Restoration work at the Robins Theatre is still ongoing, but will be ready by the inaugural concert Dec. 7.

Work on the 1,350-seat theater is about a week or two behind schedule but workers should easily be able to finish it on time, said Marvin.

The theater’s front doors were installed last week. Plumbing and heating is in place and bathroom fixtures will be installed this week. The marquee will go up in October, with the seats slated to be installed in early November once they get back from being refurbished.

Plastering on the main ceiling, most of the walls and the under-balcony ceiling is complete, said Haidaris, and it is being painted to restore the original ornate decorations.

Marvin noted that parking will not be a problem at any show.

“There are 782 parking spaces within one block of the theater,” he said, citing the city parking deck, the Gibson lot, the Atrium lot and the Veterans lot. A free shuttle van service will loop from the lots to the theater on show notes

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin called the theater the crowning jewel of downtown’s rebirth, which has included the arrival of several restaurants and the opening of the Warren Community Amphitheatre – also operated by Sunrise Entertainment  and downtown events.

“The attention to detail is exactly what this grand old theater needed,” he said.

Simpson, of Kent Stage, has decades of experience as a promoter and venue operator, and also spearheaded a similar project. 

“I started Kent Stage in 2002,” he said. “I walked into an old movie theater in downtown Kent that needed a whole lot of work. We turned it into an economic engine and plan to do the same here.”

For Joe Asente, founder and artistic director of three-year-old Millennial Theatre Co. the opening of the Robins is a dream come true.

“In our first years, we were a traveling theater company,” he said. “I’m so excited to finally have our own home here at the Robins.”

Pictured: Mark Marvin of Downtown Development Group says Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was chosen as the act for the grand opening of the Robins Theatre because it’s a throwback show to the venue’s original acts in 1943.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.