CLEARWATER — Hailed as a “shining star” and “a new beginning” that will bring change to downtown Clearwater, the revamped Capitol Theatre opened its new doors Wednesday night to toasts, cheers and music by Michael McDonald.
More than 100 people gathered outside the 92-year-old theatre that has undergone a $9 million renovation for the official ribbon cutting.
“Tonight is a new beginning; a change is coming to downtown,” said Ruth Eckerd President Zev Buffman, predicting that the Capitol will give the city “it’s own signature,” drawing crowds and creating a nightlife.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos called the Capitol a “star” that will help revitalize the downtown.
Ruth Eckerd officials supervised a nearly nine-month renovation and will book as many as 200 acts a year at the former movie house.
“We took three buildings that were about 95 years old, with creaking bones and arthritis and pulled them together into a new showplace,” he said.
Workers were scrambling at the last minute to complete the project because the 737 seats for the renovated theater did not arrive until Tuesday. “They worked all night to be ready,” Buffman said.
McDonald, fighting off the flu, said he was thrilled to be the opening act for a sold-out show.
Playing keyboard and backed by a five-piece band, the white-haired singer/songwriter opened with “Peace,” a song he wrote as a Christmas song but one he has played at every performance since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
McDonald and his band performed a variety of music from a jazzy instrumental version of “White Christmas” and the haunting “Everytime Christmas Comes Around” to the Cajun-flavored “Christmas on the Bayou” with McDonald on the accordion.
He joked about aging past the days of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, saying that he gave up sex for food and now has more time for drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
“Lyrics have a way of taking on different meanings as you get older,” he said before singing one of his hits “I Keep Forgetting” from his debut album.