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.
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.