Cheers! Thunder Bay Theatre lobby revealed!

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Pictured from left to right, Chris Eller, Brian and Tina Denbleyker, and Karla Kowalski enjoy conversation seated in the new lobby.

ALPENA — Glasses were raised to a vision complete at the VIP Lobby Reveal party held June 1 at Thunder Bay Theatre. Glasses were full of champagne, beer or wine from behind the in-house bar inside the lobby.

Attendees were impressed with the beauty of the completed lobby — the deep blue walls, which complement the bare orange exposed brick, and the rich dark wood flooring. Handsome silver chandeliers hang from the ceiling, which is coated in fancy silver tin for that familiar historic feel. Also adding to the historic charm is the old walk-in humidor previously used for storage, now converted into the new box office. The first impression begins even before you enter the building, as the new TBT facade features storefront windows that allow natural light in, giving those on the street a glimpse of the fun they could be having inside. At the VIP event, party-goers were seated comfortably in the plush velvet lounge chairs and couch reminiscent of the 1970s, but in updated modern hues that create a contemporary vibe.

“It sets the stage for the performance you’re about to see,” said Tina Denbleyker. “It’s come full circle. We just needed a vision and people with a passion to make it happen.”

Denbleyker attended the event with her husband Brian and their 14-year-old son Logan, who has been performing at TBT for six years. He was one of several young people who sang solos at the lobby party.

The public can join in on the fun Friday, June 14, in the Lobby Celebration, with cocktail hour from 6 to 7 p.m. and the summer core company performing a cabaret from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person, and hors d-oeuvres, a cash bar and photo booth will be available.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Natural light pours into the new lobby through the storefront windows while patrons listen to a celebratory speech by TBT Producing Artistic Director Jeffrey Mindock.

Patrons who were accustomed to shuffling down the narrow hallway upon entering the theater will be pleasantly surprised by the openness and inviting feel of the brand-new space. They will also enjoy a completely new bathroom set up with motion-sensor lighting when you enter the cozy hallway with four separate gender-neutral bathrooms with locking doors. This way, anyone can go in any open bathroom to keep the lines down, and there is more privacy. It’s a far cry from the cramped closet-like bathrooms with old raggedy carpet and paper-thin stall doors that patrons had used before the renovation.

“It’s wonderful to have it finally done,” said Lisa Larkin, president of the TBT Board of Directors. “It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s very classy, and there’s so much more light with the new windows. It’s even better than I pictured it.”

She added that the board is appreciative of the financial support of the community.

The lobby is product of the community’s generosity, and the artistic vision of two women– TBT Associate Artistic Director Paige Mindock and Designer and Project Manager Lisa West of West Design Center.

“Paige saw this space,” West said of Paige Mindock’s vision. “So she saw it and knew what she wanted,” and West said she just executed the plan with her.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Lisa West of West Design Center, on left, and Paige Mindock of Thunder Bay Theatre, were instrumental in designing the lobby together.

“We just wanted a room that was dramatic,” said Paige Mindock, who picked out the blue for the walls. “We wanted it to be modern, but pay homage to all of our history, so that’s why we have the wainscoting that is old, and the brick, and the floors, but then everything else is modern. Tie it all together with the new and the old, so that’s what we did.”

“It is wonderful to see Paige’s vision come to life in this fresh, open area to welcome our community,” said Karla Kowalski. “The natural light coming in is amazing. I think it is more inviting for people walking by to see inside. This is a professional theatre and now it really looks professional.”

“It’s bright, the windows make it bright, and the colors are rich, and it feels like you’re in a big city,” said Anne Heraghty, who was enjoying the VIP event with her husband Patrick Heraghty.

“It’s just fun to have an option to have a glass of wine here at the theater,” Patrick Heraghty said. “They did a great job.”

TBT Producing Artistic Director Jeffrey Mindock is overjoyed with the community’s support that has made the new lobby a reality.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Paul Denstaedt, on left, chats with TBT Board Member Jim Berles over a beer at the new bar in the lobby. Justin Christensen-Cooper tends bar in back, accompanied by the Golden Goose, which TBT earned on Giving Tuesday.

“We are just so excited to share this,” he said. “Everything we are doing is all about serving the community and giving the community what it deserves. … The Capital Campaign as an idea and as an exercise was kind of our test to see if this community wanted what we had to offer and obviously by raising the money, and the amazing support from everybody we worked with … everybody did this project at as low-cost as possible, and it’s just so humbling that we have that support and that now we get to share this with our community.”

He said the lobby will be more than just a place to gather before performances. It will be a community gathering space.

“We just want this to be filled with life,” he said. “We want this to be a place that our community is proud of … and we are just so humbled by the support and the commitment from the community.”

TBT Education Coordinator and Vocal Academy Director David Delano said the lobby offers them more rehearsal space as well.

“This lobby will give us an extra rehearsal space, and it gives us so many more opportunities to serve not only our professional theatre, but the kids in the community, which is so important,” Delano said.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Patrons attending the VIP Lobby Reveal party on June 1 at Thunder Bay Theatre raise their glasses for a toast to the brand-new lobby. The public is welcome to attend a Lobby Celebration and Cabaret on June 14.

At the VIP party, attendees were comprised of patrons who have contributed to TBT’s Capital Campaign, raising the $150,000 needed to make the lobby makeover a reality. The new lobby is phase one of a five-phase project expected to cost about $750,000.

Jeffrey Mindock said it is time to revel in the lobby completion and enjoy it for the summer before diving back into fundraising for the next phase.

“Hopefully this is the thing that brings all of those folks back who continually tell me, whether it’s at the grocery store or at my wife’s new pet store, that they haven’t been (to the theatre) in quite a few years, hopefully this lobby is what inspires them and excites them to come through the doors,” Jeffrey Mindock said. “It is equally humbling and reassuring how many people come back the first time, and then come back every time.”

For more information, call TBT at 989-354-2267 or visit www.thunderbaytheatre.com.

Companies involved in the construction of the new lobby include West Design Center, Woodruff Construction, LLC, Weinkauf Plumbing & Heating, Inc., Thunder Bay Electric, Inc., Ron McDonald, B & J Young, Inc., Alpena Glass Company, Inc., R.A. Townsend, Omega Electric & Sign Company, Inc., and Timm Construction/TRC Roofing.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley TBT Box Office Manager Adrian Alexander, on left, chats with Don La Barre, who does photography for the theatre.