Rita Gardner remembers the first time she performed at East Haddam’s Goodspeed Opera House.
“The show was “Lady,Lady,” said Gardner, who traveled from New York Monday to attend the theater’s 50th anniversary gala. “On opening night they were still putting the seats in.”
Gardner was among many performers who had great memories of the theater and were part of the sold-out crowd celebrating the anniversary of the theater and the productions they have enjoyed.
“There are too many to list,” said actor Ronn Carroll, who appeared in many of those including “Carousel,” “Camelot,” “1776” and “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” “It is always a joy to perform at this theater,” he said. “There is a quality to the shows. They are as good as Broadway, only the theater is smaller.”
The historic white building on the edge of the Connecticut River was as decked out for the night as the guests were. The theater was wrapped in gold bunting with bouquets of gold balloons planted everywhere including the three tents used for the occasion. A special VIP reception at the adjacent Gelston House kicked off the night with gala chairs Marcia Kalayjian and Hila Rosen, and Goodspeed board president Fran Adams providing the welcomes.
Following dinner, there was a star-studded show with music from various musicals that have been featured at the theater over the past five decades, including Gardner singing “When the Ship Cones In” and an impromptu performance of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
A nostalgic Michael Price, who has been at the theater’s helm for 47 years was a bit nostalgic when he arrived, sporting a commemorative Goodspeed medallion on his lapel, one that he fashioned himself.
“It was actually a bookmark we handed out once,” he said about the pressed golden metal rendition of the theater building. “I thought it would be nice to wear it tonight.”
And as far as his feelings on such a noteworthy night?
“It is sweet and wonderful,” said Price, who worked at the theater when it first opened, leaving and then returning again to begin his long tenure. “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years.”
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