LIBERTY — Liberty is a charming rural town in northeastern Randolph County that is home to an entertainment jewel, the Liberty Showcase Theater.
Because it’s a community best known for its semi-annual Antiques Festivals, many county residents may be unaware of the town’s music venue that hosts Nashville acts as well as others on a regular basis.
Opened in June of 2014 by Dewey and Leslie Brown, the former Curtis movie house used to be home to another music venue, the Rand Ole Opry operated by Grady Hockett.
Dewey, who fiddled with Dr. Ralph Stanley for 12 years and lived in Graham, often drove past the then-closed venue and dreamed.
“I’m going to buy that theater,” he would tell his wife.
She didn’t think he was serious, but then one day he called her to say, “We’re going to the sign the papers.”
Leslie admitted, “I had no idea what we were getting into!”
Leslie, who was originally a nurse by trade, shared, “Music (as a livelihood) came afterward.”
Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains, Leslie spent her youth listening to bluegrass music, clogging, square dancing and attending Primitive Baptist Church with her great uncle, Ralph Stanley. She met Dewey while he was playing with Stanley. They married in 2007.
Dewey continued to tour with Stanley until his death in 2016. The fiddler wanted to maintain his musical livelihood so his wife decided to join him.
“Dewey taught me to play the bass,” she said. “I took to it. It blew my mind. I started writing songs. I had written Ralph’s recitation on his last album.”
The duo formed their own band, Dewey & Leslie Brown & the Carolina Gentlemen, and started performing her original tunes. Leslie, who had stage experience from beauty pageants, became the band’s spokesperson.
The couple launched Brown Entertainment, opened a business office in Burlington, and went to work.
They now run two entertainment venues (the couple also operates a theater in Reidsville) plus travel and play music. In addition, raising two young children with another on the way keeps the Browns very busy.
“It has been a huge life change. If you follow what God calls you to do, you will be happy,” Leslie affirmed.
The theater, which seats 454, almost sold out on their first show which featured Dewey’s boss and Leslie’s great-uncle, Ralph Stanley, and his band, the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Since then, the music hall has seen many country, bluegrass and gospel music icons grace their stage. Entertainers to play the Liberty Showcase include Lee Greenwood, Gene Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Mary Stuart and the Oak Ridge Boys.
“Skaggs sold out in a month, a year in advance,” Leslie said. “We had to add a second (matinee) show.”
It serves as a perfect outing for any family. Handicap accessible, the Showcase does not serve alcohol, but offers a variety of movie theater-type concessions such as popcorn, candy and Pepsi products.
Although it’s been in operation for seven years, most of their patrons travel distances to attend the shows.
“Lots of folks come from out of town,” Leslie said. “We’d love to see more local attendees. We want to encourage Randolph County folks to come see us. We want everyone to know about us.”
Leslie also serves as the venue’s emcee. “We offer an intimate, up-close-and-personal entertainment experience. Most our artists meet and greet with the patrons for photos and autographs.”
Marie Taylor of Cary, a regular patron of the Liberty Showcase, sings the venue’s praises. “It’s great entertainment value for the money. I have been many times and always have a good time. It is family-friendly and comfortable. There are no bad seats. The sound is good from every seat in the house.
“Many big names have played at the small venue and you get to meet the stars. Plus, they have the best popcorn in town!”
The Malpass Brothers, a classis country duo, play the Liberty Showcase annually.
“It’s a great family venue ran by people who know how to have a great show and great venue,” Chris Malpass said. “We have known the Browns for years. They are first class people to work for and great entertainers in their own right. We love working for them anytime we can.”
“We enjoy what we do,” Leslie said. “We are very blessed to have been this successful. We definitely want the community to know about us and the great acts on the way.”
Upcoming shows at Liberty Showcase Theater feature several Nashville country music recording artists:
— Terri Clark on April 2.
— Sammy Kershaw on April 8 and 9.
Later this year, Dailey & Vincent, Gene Watson, a salute to Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn (featuring Loretta’s granddaughter), Rhonda Vincent, and the Malpass Brothers are scheduled to appear. Ticket prices and times vary with performers.
The Liberty Showcase Theater is located at 101 South Fayetteville Street, Liberty. For show schedules and to purchase tickets, call 336-622-3844 or visit their Facebook page or website: thelibertyshowcase.com.