Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Capitol Theatre in Clearwater opens in style

CLEARWATER — After the ribbon was cut, and the speeches about the history-making moment ended, Frank Hibbard stood inside the Capitol Theatre a few hours before its grand reopening Wednesday night and laughed.

Hibbard was mayor when the city bought the fading theater in 2008 during the financial crisis.

"Plenty of people thought we were crazy," he said. "This is a culmination of a dream."

Criss-crossing search lights on opening night added dazzle to what city leaders expect to be an economic beacon for a still-blighted downtown.

Nancy Cartwright thinks so. The famous voice of Bart Simpson clutched her tickets outside, saying how she'd crushed on Michael McDonald, the ex-Doobie Brother who christened the 737-seat venue, since she was 16.

She said the $10.7 million investment of public funds would help restore Clearwater's gleam.

"It's like a diamond in the rough. They're scraping all the crust off to expose the special-ness of Clearwater," said Cartwright, a Scientologist who visits the city several times a year.

Whether the show would go on was an open question until almost the last minute. Crews worked through the night to attach seat cushions that had been delayed by an Indian port strike. But when the doors opened in the Ruth Eckerd Hall-managed facility, all was sparkle and buzz.

Young women dressed in red-starred jackets and faux-fur hats balanced shot glasses of vodka on server's trays. Other servers with flutes of champagne worked their way through the ribbon-cutting crowd and the VIP lounge was packed.

McDonald, who apologized for being sick with the flu, belted out a mixture of Christmas songs and Doobie Brothers standards to start the scheduled two-hour sold-out show.

Up in the mezzanine, amid some grumblings about cramped leg space, there was plenty of excitement.

"I was in here about 15 years ago and it was creepy," said Chet Metcalfe of Dunedin.

Janie Coleman, 60, was more than happy to drive from Brandon to see McDonald. She worked as a bartender during the Doobie Brothers heyday and saw them for $8 in 1972 or so.

On Wednesday, her mezzanine ticket, with fees, cost her $102.50 and was worth every penny, she said.

Charlie Frago can be reached at or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

Capitol Theatre in Clearwater opens in style 12/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  2. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott

  3. Forecast: Return of summertime pattern means afternoon storms on tap for Tampa Bay


    As if Memorial Day wasn't enough of a signal that summer truly is upon us, this week's forecast across the Tampa Bay area will be a stark reminder.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Tiger Woods says medication, not alcohol, led to DUI arrest in Florida

    Public Safety

    Players arriving for a tournament this week at Muirfield Village might notice a framed picture of Tiger Woods with a resplendent smile and bright red shirt. He's posed there with the trophy, an image that embodies the excitement he once brought to golf.

    This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Monday, May 29, 2017, shows Tiger Woods. Police in Florida say Tiger Woods was been arrested for DUI.  [Palm Beach County Sheriff's office via AP]
  5. Manuel Noriega, Panamanian strongman toppled in U.S. invasion, dies at 83


    Gen. Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian strongman and onetime American ally who was toppled from power in a 1989 U.S. invasion and who spent more than two decades imprisoned on drug dealing and conspiracy convictions, died late Monday. He was most likely 83.

    Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega waves to newsmen after a state council meeting, at the presidential palace in Panama City, where they announced the new president of the republic in 1989. Panama's ex-dictator Noriega died Monday, May 29, 2017, in a hospital in Panama City. He was 83. [Associated Press]