In a little more than a month, Wale, Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) and Wanda Sykes will take the stage at a sparkling new venue at 620 T St. NW, near Florida Avenue. Then, the Roots, Bad Brains and Chuck Brown will take their respective turns.
The acts are providing a fitting kickoff for the Howard Theatre, the onetime grand centerpiece of Washington’s Black Broadway that will re-open April 9 after 30 years as a blighted eyesore. After years of stops and starts in the project, a $29 million renovation by developer Chip Ellis that has been spearheaded by Howard Theatre Restoration Inc., is in its last stages.
Blue Note Entertainment, which will operate the club in addition to its Blue Note Jazz and B.B. King Blues clubs and Highline Ballroom in New York, will announce the first few months of performances today. The Washington Post obtained an early look at the schedule, and the highlights include:
●A soft opening for the venue with Wale on April 9, the same day as a free Howard Theatre Community Day, featuring live music and tours of the theater.
●A three-night run by comedian Wanda Sykes from April 13-15.
●Performances by the Roots on April 15 and 16.
●Bad Brains and GZA on April 20.
●Chaka Khan on May 5.
●Esperanza Spalding on May 12.
●Jerry Lee Lewis on May 18.
Tickets for many of the shows fall at $35 or under, though Chaka Khan tickets will be $75, the Roots will be $55 and Wanda Sykes tickets will run $95.
As for the space itself, the Howard is slated to be a 12,000-square-foot, 600-seat venue (with room for 1,000 when it’s a standing-room show). “The outside of the theater has been restored to how it looked in 1910,” says Steven Bensusan, president of Blue Note Entertainment. “The interior has a very modern feel — it’s very sleek, there’s lots of wood, video walls, recessed lighting. I think people are going to be impressed by the scope of what we’ve done.”
Indeed, a peek I got at the venue this week showed interior walls lined in warm black walnut, a basement outfitted with a state-of-the-art kitchen, and a balcony level just starting to see the installation of cozy banquettes. The effect is somewhere between Strathmore and the Fillmore, but the theater will also be a full-service restaurant, offering table service during seated shows. The theater will also provide a new Sunday destination; each week beginning April 15, it will play host to a Sunday gospel brunch featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir.
Tickets for Howard Theatre shows will be available online beginning Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. at www.thehowardtheatre.com.