Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts reopens in style

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | 9:11 p.m. CDT; updated 2:44 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Patrons enjoy hors d'ouerves and champagne inside the Missouri Theatre before the start of its grand opening gala, which featured singer Tony Bennett on Wednesday.

Singer Tony Bennett performed the first show held within the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, which reopened after careful planning and 10 months of renovation, on Wednesday night.

Starting around 6 p.m., a crowd of people could be seen on Ninth Street awaiting the grand opening. With lines stretching around the corners of the theater, there was no lack of chatter about the evening’s upcoming events.

What they said

COLUMBIA — After seeing the new Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, people had positive feedback about the renovations and how they thought it would affect Columbia. “As I walked through the doors, my heart was pounding and my eyes got big because it’s so beautiful, even more than I expected.” — Anne Deaton of Columbia “Columbia should be proud that they hung on to this to renovate it.” — Margaret Whitlock of Monett “What I’m impressed with is that the interior has stayed true to the former style in the old theater.” — Lynda Kross of Columbia “We came to Columbia in 1969. We came tonight to see if it’s back to the way it used to look. It’s better.” — Vicki Hartwig of Columbia “I served on the board of directors when we used to worry that the roof would cave in, so it’s very exciting.” — Sharon Kinden of Columbia “I bought three chairs for all the memories I have here.” — Wanda Northway of Columbia “I think it’s a huge addition to the town.” — Eric Thompson of Columbia “So often they tear preserved buildings like this down. I’m very happy with the renovations.” — Steve Cheavens of Columbia “It’s awesome to go in there after the time I spent cleaning it before the renovation as a volunteer.” — Joanne Cowan of Columbia “I thought tonight was a great way to celebrate the arts in Columbia.” — Susan Evans of Columbia “There’s social history in this building, and now everyone can come and listen to great music.” — Michael Budds, MU professor “I thought it was very well done. The acoustics are out of this world.” — Linda Gasper of Columbia “Tony Bennett just seemed like your old friend.” — Rose Buescher Corgan of Columbia “The acoustics are amazing. Tony Bennett showed everyone how good the acoustics are. He laid the mic down and sang without it.” — Charlie Digges of Columbia

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Joan Christopher of Columbia said she was excited to see the finalization of the project. Before the start of the renovations, Christopher said she frequently enjoyed shows at the theater.

“I spent months finding other venues to fill the gap until it was finished,” Christopher said.

The doors opened at 6:30 p.m., and theatergoers in elegant dresses and tuxedos were soon shoulder to shoulder in the foyer. Servers navigated the room offering champagne, fruit and tabbouleh wraps. As people walked in, the 3-D-art naming wall recognizing the donors of the renovation could be seen on the left.

Lynda Kross of Columbia said she was impressed with how the wall represents the arts, a main purpose behind the renovation.

For some attendees, the opportunity to see Bennett was the big draw of the evening.

Margaret Whitlock, who described herself as a big fan of the singer, made the trip to Columbia from the southern Missouri town of Monett, just to see Bennett. She said she has never been able to see any of her favorite artists in concert, and this was her chance to see one of them perform.

Brad Andresen of Columbia said although he was looking forward to Bennett’s performance, the true focus of the night was the theater.

“The theater is the heart of it,” Andresen said. “The rest is dressing.”

David A. White III, executive director of the Missouri Theatre and Missouri Symphony Orchestra, captured the atmosphere of the reopening at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.

“This is the heart of it all for our community and for the state of Missouri,” White said. “For one day, this will be the most historically renovated and state-of-the-art performance facility in the nation, until some other guy in some other city opens up the next one.”

The concert, which ended shortly after 9 p.m., was considered a success by theatergoers, who marveled at Bennett’s performance and the theater’s acoustics.

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