Dock Street reopens with Spoleto gala

By Adam Parker | The Post and Courier | Friday, April 2, 2010

Charleston's grand patrons of the arts gathered Thursday night for a Spoleto Festival USA gala fundraiser that baptized the newly renovated Dock Street Theatre.

After the pleasant lobby mingling -- the chance to meet and greet, to chat with friends near and distant, to sip champagne and glance at the details of the impeccable plaster work inside the theater -- Nigel Redden, Spoleto Festival general director, strode on stage to read a letter from Mayor Joe Riley (who is away with family for the Easter holiday), thank a large number of people responsible for either the renovation or the gala and introduce the performers.

There was a work by composer Jonathan Berger commissioned for the occasion appropriately called "Fanfare for a New Theater," though it sounded a bit like rock and roll.

There was a monologue written by DuBose Heyward (who wrote the novel "Porgy and Bess" and was the resident writer with the Footlight Players after the theater reopened in 1937) and performed by actress Heather Gillespie.

The Dock Street Theatre, which was created in the 1930s on the site of the nation's first theatre, is ready to reopen following a three-year, $19 million renovation.

There was a terrific violin sonata by Handel, selections for the opera "Flora," which will be presented during the upcoming festival that begins in May, a luscious piano quartet in E flat (Op. 47) by Robert Schumann and a couple of famous arias from Bizet's "Carmen" and one stunner from Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah" sung by opera superstar Denyce Graves.

Geoff Nuttall, St. Lawrence String Quartet violinist who inherited the role of artistic director of the chamber music series from Charles Wadsworth at the end of last year's festival, was a charming music explainer who was very happy to be back in "the Dock."

"I haven't been this nervous in 20 years," he said after the show.

But the star of the evening was the theater itself -- its improved sound, padded seats, intimate feel and history. Everyone loved being there.

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