RiverCenter for the Performing Arts is 10!

September 4, 2012 

It’s difficult to believe, but RiverCenter for the Performing Arts celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

I remember when that block was still the Columbus Police Department headquarters.

Then in 1998, when that building came down, bricks from the old CPD building were sold. I bought one for my brother, Fred. He began his career as a police officer in that building.

For a while, that block was just a big hole in the ground. Then construction began.

We started covering its progress with monthly visits to the site. We photographed everything. And a bunch of us asked every question imaginable.

There was one question none of us from the newspaper asked, though. It came from TV. Then executive director James Baudoin and building project manager Tim Ackert were being interviewed by a TV reporter.

They were standing in the Broadway median when she asked which was RiverCenter and which was the parking garage. (The garage was finished first and was already being used).

James told me the story. He said Tim got red in the face and started sputtering and finally yelled, “The parking garage is the one with the cars coming out of it.”

I don’t think that ever aired.

Since then, we've had a huge list of show there, including Georgia artists Jessye Norman and Travis Tritt; Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval; concerts by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Columbus State University Schwob School of Music faculty and student ensembles; violinist Robert McDuffie of Macon; Cantus Columbus and the now-defunct Columbus Boy Choir. The Ledger-Enquirer’s Page One Awards was also in the mix.

Since that first season, we’ve had diverse performers including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinists Itzhak Perlman and Midori (not together, of course), the Israeli Philharmonic, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Jerry Seinfeld and opera stars Frederica von Stade and Kiri te Kanawa (together).

There were some local stars, too. Comedian Tim Wilson, a Brookstone School graduate, pretty sold out the house, as did a concert by local singer/songwriters Allen Levi and Bebo Norman.

And, of course, the Broadway series, has been a big hit. I remember that one of the first shows, "Fosse," featuring choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse, was a sell-out. Across the street at the Springer Opera House, two of its holiday shows were sold out as well. That, I think, showed that RiverCenter's Broadway series and Springer's shows would both be OK. I know both were concerned about that issue.

I'm glad RiverCenter is doing OK, even after 10 years.

This season, which includes "The Midtown Men," featuring the original cast of "Jersey Boys" and Celtic Woman, will be another great one.

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