Sutton Foster’s opening song paid homage to the Big Apple, but it also gave a nod to her roots in the Garden City.
The Tony Award-winning actress opened the Miller Theater gala to benefit Symphony Orchestra Augusta on Saturday with NYC from the musical Annie – the show she appeared in with the Augusta Players in 1986.
The sold-out black-tie gala marked the first time in more than 30 years that patrons attended a performance in the theater, which opened in 1940.
“It’s finally here,” said Anne Catherine Murray, the executive director of Symphony Orchestra Augusta. “As recent as 24 hours ago, there was still a lot to be done. We have an amazing staff and an amazing board. The theater management did an incredible job.”
Augustans dressed in evening gowns and tuxedoes filled the 1,300-seat auditorium, and patrons said they felt an excitement in the downtown area.
“It’s so wonderful to see so many people get so excited about something so important as the arts here in Augusta,” said Kathleen Jones, who along with her husband, Ron, are founders of the Columbia County Ballet. “This is what theater should be like.”
While some saw the potential of the theater district in downtown Augusta, others reminisced about the Miller while marveling at the renovations.
Georgia Cunningham has lived in Augusta since 1952 and has many fond memories of the theater, including her first performance on the theater’s stage.
“I was 7,” she said. “I was in a talent show right here.”
The Miller has other fond memories for Cunningham, including watching her first Elvis movie in the balcony.
For Ian Mercier, the memories are more recent. The president and chief executive officer of the MCG Foundation was a child when the Miller Theater closed in 1984.
“I saw Clash of the Titans, and I sat in the balcony,” said Mercier, who was impressed with the theater’s renovations. “This is first class, and it shows as much as anything of what the community can do.”
Prior to Foster and Symphony Orchestra Augusta taking the stage, Murray read off a list of “thank yous” to the many supporters who made the project happen, making a special presentation to Levi Hill IV, the president of the Miller Theater board, naming the founder’s room in his honor.