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The crush of people wedged elbow-to-elbow in the lobby of the newly renovated Dock Street Theatre made navigating Thursday night's gala an epic feat. Twas not a night for the timid! Late arrivals were relegated to watching a portion of the pre-show champagne reception from the portico, where the burnished facade gleamed in the glorious sunset reflected off the neighboring French Huguenot Church. After a three-year, $19 million renovation, the Dock Street Theatre is officially reopened.


Several doyennes exhibited savvy sartorial taste with gowns that commanded a wide berth; the women were able to dodge and weave amid the penguin suits with quasi apologetic shrugs toward the yards of taffeta and silk sweeping about them. However a heavy-footed train stomper nearly caused a major wardrobe malfunction for the dame who donned the show-stopping one-shoulder number. Daresay those cheeks would have tinged as florid as the dress itself.


The trill of the head usher's xylophone sounded shortly after 7 p.m. in effort to coax slow-moving guests into the theatre itself. The lolling parade was waylaid further by requisite gladhanding with chamber music impresario Charles Wadsworth, the spritely octogenarian who retired from his Spoleto Festival USA charge amid great fanfare during the 2009 festival. His dark haired beauty of a wife, Susan, looked especially handsome in a fetching shade of emerald.


Spoleto director Nigel Redden welcomed attendees and read an except of a letter from Mayor Riley, who was out-of-town for the Easter holiday:


This very special building holds a valuable place in Charleston's history. Always a cultural gathering place, it has historically been the setting for outstanding musical presentations, incredible theatre and always the site for an experience which was enriching and enlightening.


Performances followed. Chamber music (Geoff Nutall, violin; Melissa Readon, viola; Pedja Muzijevic, piano; Christopher Costanza, cello; and Alan Hamilton, piano), a dramatic interpretation of the prologue for The Recruiting Officer performed by Heather Gillespie, more chamber music, selections from the opera Flora by Eve Gigliotti and Zachary Stains, more chamber music, and a few arias sung by the ethereally voiced Denyce Graves and accompanied by Vlad Iftinca collectively earned a thundering ovation from the capacity crowd. 


Nuttall, heir of the Wadsworth legacy, engaged the audience with a meld of esoteric musical knowledge and spirited humor; he even played an April Fool's Day joke on the audience. Although Wadsworth shall be missed, the cult of chamber music devotees will be in good hands when the 2010 Spoleto Festival opens on May 28.