The totally renovated Circa ’21 Speakeasy reopens in a big way tonight with the return of the Manny Lopez Big Band at 7 p.m. Admission is $18, at 1818 3rd Ave., Rock Island.

Bottoms Up Quad City Burlesque will return on Saturday, Oct. 15 with an 8 p.m. show. You must be 18 or older to attend. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show.

Circa ’21 owner/producer Denny Hitchcock (left) and his son Brett (director of audience development) at The Speakeasy Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.

“I want to thank the Hitchcocks – Brett and Denny – for continuing to invest in downtown Rock Island,” Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms said at the Speakeasy ribbon-cutting on Thursday, Oct. 13. “We know it’s been a tough couple of years and it’s not easy to make these investments.”

“You both continue to do this, year in and year out, to be creative,” he said. “We really commend you for your diligence, your patience and sticking with us in Rock Island. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.”

The renovated interior.

Brett Hitchcock (Circa’s director of audience development) on Thursday thanked the design firm Streamline Architects and general contractor Russell Construction for overhaul of the 125-seat venue, as well as DARI for supplying a façade improvement grant for the new exterior sign. He thanked the city, Quad Cities Chamber and retired Circa business manager Diane Laake for their support.

Hitchcock also thanked new Circa costume designer and costume shop manager Bradley Jensen. “Within a couple days of construction, we were already tearing apart his shop, so he could not have been more patient with us during the construction process, so Bradley, thank you for being so patient with us.”

The newly expanded bar at The Speakeasy.

In the five-month rehab project (which added a new lobby, bar, flooring, tables, chairs, lighting, handicapped-accessible restrooms, and more), Circa had the whole Speakeasy interior gutted and re-did it with a Prohibition-era theme room. The stage area and tin ceiling stayed the same.

“We could not be happier – we really have a beautiful room to show off to people and we couldn’t be more excited,” Hitchcock said.

Circa had discussed the project for about 10 years and decided now is the time, he said. “We were very excited to take the plunge and make it happen, and it turned out just beautiful.”

The Speakeasy is next to Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island.

Circa (the dinner theater next door at 1828 3rd Ave.) has been in downtown Rock Island for 45 years and has continually invested in improving their property, he said.

“Whenever we can help in the process of bringing more critical mass down here, we’re all for it and have been for years,” Hitchcock said. “We feel it’s very important to see new construction, new building, old buildings being redone like this. There’s a lot of construction going on in downtown Rock Island right now, so it’s really kind of an exciting time, to get back more to how it used to be.”

Part of the new lobby.

“There’s a lot of committed people downtown now, who want to see it like it was,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to getting back to that level and the city is really committed to it.”

Circa wouldn’t reveal what the Speakeasy project cost, but Hitchcock said it “was a significant investment, I’ll leave it at that.”

The building originally opened in 1898, and was an early Eagle grocery store in town, he said. It later was converted to Circa’s costume shop years after Circa opened in 1977.

The Viva La Divas drag show last weekend was the soft opening for the new Speakeasy and Hitchcock said audiences loved it.

The bar area pays tribute to former house manager Brad Hann, who died in early September at age 51.

“That ‘wow’ factor was very neat to see,” he said. “It was nice to get that positive feedback right away and we’re looking to more of that in the coming weeks.”

“The Rocky Horror Show” later this month already has some sold-out performances, among its nine shows over two weekends, Hitchcock said.

It will be the first time since 2019 when the “Rocky Horror” actors will be interacting among the audience members, he noted.

The new Speakeasy has more of a 1920s-era vibe.

“The thing that’s really important with ‘Rocky’ is that interaction, so to be able to back to that, we haven’t done that since pre-COVID,” Hitchcock said. Last year, Circa required audiences to be masked; the actors stayed on stage and they were masked when off-stage.

“This will be the first year we’re back to being normal again,” he said.

The “Rocky Horror” performances are:

  • Oct. 21 & 22, 28 & 29 – at 7 p.m. (must be 18+) and 11 p.m. (must be 21+)
  • Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. (must be 18+)

All shows admission are $25 in advance, $30 day of show. Prop bags for sale $4 at the door. For tickets and more information on The Speakeasy, click HERE.