BILLINGS — Staff and volunteers at the Alberta Bair Theater in downtown Billings welcomed the public back into the theater with an open house on Saturday for the first time since closing for renovations in 2019.
“The change. I mean, some people are like, ‘I just can’t believe it’s the same building,’” said Jan Dietrich, executive director for the theater.
Dietrich gave tours of the new facility in the afternoon at the same time as the Strawberry Festival was taking place just a block away. Saturday was the first day people could purchase tickets to the 2021-22 season at Alberta Bair.
Dietrich said people lined up at 6 a.m., two hours before operating hours, to snag tickets to upcoming events.
"People want to get their seats and they want to get good seats. People are really excited about “Beautiful”, the Carole King story, "The Simon and Garfunkle Story", "The British Invasion", "The Choir of Man". We have a really great lineup,” Dietrich said.
On Sept. 18, Kristin Chenoweth will be the first full-house performance back open to the public. Four other events are scheduled for the summer months.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed a large-scale grand opening so the public could view the $13.6 million renovation project. The construction added space in the lobby and box office, added an elevator, added bathrooms and improved the lighting and sound technology in the theater.
“The sound is excellent. The seats are new and comfortable and there’s actually a little more leg room. I think (people) all just have really been surprised with the transformation of what it became. I had one person on a tour say we have completely exceeded their expectations,” Dietrich said.
This renovation is the second in the theater's history. The most recent renovation in 1987 changed its name from the Fox Theater to the Alberta Bair, named after the daughter of Charles Bair, a turn-of-the-century sheep rancher whose former house used to sit where the theater currently rests at North Broadway and Third Avenue North.
Dietrich said tours of the new facility can be scheduled by calling the theater at 406-256-6052. To see the complete Alberta Bair Theater 2021-22 season calendar, visit its website by clicking here.