B'way's New Ford Center Baptized in Starlight

News   B'way's New Ford Center Baptized in Starlight
 
Marin Mazzie sings "Bless This House." Behind her can be glimpsed, from left: Elaine Stritch, Harold Prince, Alfred Uhry, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, NY Gov. George Pataki, E.L. Doctorow, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christopher Plummer, many holding bits of the ribbon they had just symbolically cut.
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Photo by Photo by Starla Smith

Marin Mazzie sings "Bless This House." Behind her can be glimpsed, from left: Elaine Stritch, Harold Prince, Alfred Uhry, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, NY Gov. George Pataki, E.L. Doctorow, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christopher Plummer, many holding bits of the ribbon they had just symbolically cut.

Livent Inc. producer Garth Drabinsky drew a constellation of stars, writers and designers to the Dec. 12 official christening of the new Ford Performing Arts Center, Broadway's newest theatre.

The 1813-seat theatre on New York's West 42nd Street lights Dec. 26 with the first Broadway preview of the new musical Ragtime.

In addition to the expected speeches, from Drabinsky, N.Y. Gov. George Pataki, N.Y. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Ford Motor Co.'s Darryl Hazel, there were several moments of drama, and perhaps even some theatre magic.

Citing the general recolonization of formerly blighted block by the Broadway theatre community as the result of dreams, Drabinsky introduced Ragtime stars Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell, who sang "Wheels of a Dream" from the show. As he delivered the first song sung before an audience on the new Broadway stage, Mitchell kissed his fingertips and offered the kiss skyward. Drabinsky's assistants then stretched a long red and white striped ribbon across the stage of the 1813-seat playhouse, built on the site of the old Lyric and Apollo theatres. As he read the following names of actors associated with, or planning, Livent shows, they walked to the upstage wall and stood in silhouette: Chita Rivera, Marin Mazzie, Christopher Plummer, Vanessa Williams, Colm Wilkinson, Elaine Stritch, Harold Prince, Terrence McNally, Marvin Hamlisch, E.L. Doctorow, Alfred Uhry, Susan Stroman, Vanessa Williams, Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, John Guare, James Hammerstein, and more.

The stars then came forward into the light and were revealed, each with a scissors on a red ribbon around their necks. On a count of three from Drabinsky, they all used their scissors to cut the main ribbon symbolically and open the theatre.

Mazzie then sang a blessing on the theatre, to the tune of the traditional hymn "Bless This House," but with some new words by Ragtime lyricist Ahrens and Marty Bell. In part, she sang:

Fill this house with song and dance
Drama, humor and romance
Words of truth and words of light
Telling stories through the night
Bless this stage on which we dwell
And our neighbors, wish them well.

Bless this house, that we may stand
Years from now, still hand-in-hand
Bless this house, and brand-new age
And our family of the stage.

The theatre will be open to the public, free, 10 AM to 6 PM Sunday, Dec. 14 so theatre lovers can see it for themselves. The cast of Ragtime will begin tech rehearsals on the Ford stage for the first time Dec. 15.

- By Robert Viagas

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