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Short North theater to make ‘Follies’ into fortune

Courtesy of Short North Stage

Ohio State students can expect to see more footwork in the Short North Arts District as the Short North Stage, a professional theater company, opens the doors of its new home, the Garden Theater.

Opened in the 1920s as a vaudeville house, a silent movie theater, and now a musical performance space, the theater will re-open Friday with a concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Follies.”

In the show, former members of the “Weismann Follies” musical revue reunite on the eve of their theater’s demolition to remember their time there. Similar to the musical’s plot, the Garden Theater is also in a depleted state and awaiting renovation.

Although the theater is in need of remodeling, organizers decided to keep the building as is, at least for the first production of the year.

Rick Gore, co-founder of Short North Stage and producer of “Follies,” agreed to keep the theater in its original state so that audience members can fully experience the musical and the building’s history.

“The theater is perfect for that,” Gore said. “We chose ‘Follies’ because our director, Kevin McGuire, looked around the theatre and said, ‘We have to do “Follies” here first.’ It’s in amazing shape, although it’s old and dirty.”

The building’s exterior went through its first touch-up earlier this year.

The sign, barely hung and nearly ready to come off its hinges, was repaired, repainted and relit at October’s Gallery Hop.

In an interview with NBC4 in September, Gore said he hoped the bright neon colored sign will help attract people to the Short North and revitalize business around the area.

Gore said he couldn’t provide specific figures in regards to how much money they expect to make, but said they hope to break even or profit.

“It’s optimism. It’s green. The garden is growing again and it literally has a lease on a new life,” Gore said.

The theater currently holds about 125 to 150 people and tickets are sold at $25 a piece. Of the six shows that are scheduled, two are already sold out.

Gore also said the Greater Columbus Arts Council provided them with two grants: one for $5,000 for hardline and repairs and about $4,100 for the “Follies” production costs.

Dan Gray, chair and associate professor for the OSU Department of Theatre, has never seen “Follies” but said he is excited to attend and see his wife perform as part of the show.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for a group of local actors to get on stage and do a Sondheim musical,” Gray said.

Courtney Bland, a second-year in dance, will not attend the show but said that she is surprised to hear something different is happening in the Short North.

“It sounds like an interesting show, and if I had the time to go, I would definitely go,” Bland said.

“Follies” will run Oct. 14 and 15 and Oct. 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 16 and 23 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the online at shortnorthstage.org or at the Garden Theater located on 1187 N. High St.

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