In the heart of Overtown, the Historic Lyric Theater has long stood as the cultural pulse of Miami's historically black neighborhood. Count Basie, Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, and many more of America's greatest entertainers have graced its stage since the theater's opening in 1913. Now, the Lyric is giving Miami's emerging artists a platform to be heard with the monthly Lyric Live.
“The Black Archives created Lyric Live as a way to showcase local talent and create a recurring activity that would attract visitor traffic from Overtown, its surrounding neighborhoods, and beyond,” Kamila Pritchett says. One needs to take a deep breath in order to say Pritchett's official title: operations programming manager for the historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex and the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida.
Lyric Live launched in February 2014 and is currently in its third season. The talent showcase takes place on the first Friday of each month and gives a voice to artists of all kinds. Singers, comedians, rappers, and anyone else with a marketable talent compete for a chance at $500 and local praise, all while risking the threat of getting booed off stage, which can — and does — happen at the Apollo-style competition. The next show is this Friday, August 5.
“The turnout has been consistent,” Pritchett says. The annual Lyric All-Stars performance, where past winner get together and perform, always packs the house to capacity.
The show is hosted by local comedian Chello Davis with music by the Showtyme Junkanoo Band, Jody Hill and the Deep Fried Funk Band, and DJ Ed the World Famous.
Much like the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, Lyric Live aims to revive the vitality of Miami’s historically black community.
“Lyric Theater in Overtown and the Apollo Theater in Harlem are both significant landmarks in what were thriving black communities during segregation,” Pritchett says. “Overtown was widely known as 'the Harlem of the South.' Our executive director, Timothy A. Barber, developed the idea for Lyric Live after visiting Harlem and the Apollo Theater a few years back, drawing on the similarities of our institutions’ significance and relevance to our respective communities. He gave it a distinct Miami twist, featuring an authentic Bahamian Junkanoo band to usher off the booed contestants. This is a nod to our Bahamian community, who were among Miami’s early pioneers.”
As previously mentioned, each year there is a grand finale of sorts. Culminating in February, the Lyric Live All-Stars Show features all of the winners from each month of the season competing against each other. Last year's grand prize was $1,000, ten hours of free studio time from Studio Center Miami, and your very own plaque hung in the Lyric's lobby.
Participating in Lyric Live is as simple as a phone call.
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“Potential contestants must audition to participate by calling the Black Archives at 786-708-4610 or visiting us between 10 a.m. [and] 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex,” Pritchett says. You can also shoot an email off to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While many of the artists who take their shot at Lyric’s stage don’t move on, some actually use it as a legitimate platform to launch careers.
“Our season two winner, Theron Early, was featured on The Voice, and it’s pretty exciting to know that we are continuing the legacy of the Lyric."
Lyric Live. 8 p.m. Friday, August 5, at the Lyric Theater, 819 NW Second Ave., Miami; 786-708-4610. Tickets cost $10 via eventbrite.com.