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Todd Rundgren concert moves outdoors after mold found in Clearwater's Capitol Theatre

CLEARWATER — Talk about a last-minute change in plans.

As crews erected a soundstage in the street Friday, the man in charge of the Capitol Theatre sat inside the building and talked matter-of-factly about mold. The discovery of mold in the historic downtown theater forced organizers to move a Friday night rock concert outside on short notice.

Robert Freedman, president and chief executive officer of Ruth Eckerd Hall, downplayed the extent of the Capitol Theatre's mold problem.

Ruth Eckerd recently took over the small venue, formerly called the Royalty Theatre, and had cleaned it in preparation for its first show in more than a year. But then a city inspection found some mold underneath the backstage area.

"There's some remediation work we have to do. It'll be done by Wednesday," Freedman said. "This is not something where we're going, 'Oh my God, we've got to tear the building apart.' "

Meanwhile, workers set up 450 seats on Cleveland Street just outside the theater, in the same configuration as the seats inside. Tickets for each seat at Friday night's sold-out Todd Rundgren concert were still honored.

Concert tickets cost $49.75 apiece. With a downtown street party happening nearby Friday evening, the concert's organizers cordoned off a full block of Cleveland to prevent onlookers from flooding the area for a free show.

When ticket holders arrived Friday night, the change of venue didn't appear to be an issue. Then again, conditions outside were near perfect.

"My seat's in the sixth row," said Sherrie Williams of Largo. "What do I care if other people are standing close by and can hear?"

Shelley Kiger of Bradenton said concert organizers called Friday morning, explained the situation and offered a refund.

"My only concern is the rain," she said, referring to possible showers later in the evening. "If it rains, he stops playing and I don't get my refund."

Instead of being nestled inside a 1920s-era theater, the concert stage straddled the intersection of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue, between the Harborview Center and the Water's Edge condo tower.

Some people liked it better that way.

"Frankly, I'm glad the concert's out here because it's going to be a tremendous party," said Bill Sturtevant, chairman of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, which was holding a "Fourth Friday" street fair at the same time.

Freedman said moving the Todd Rundgren concert outside was a "judgment call."

The city of Clearwater bought the historic venue in November and turned it over to Ruth Eckerd Hall to stage shows there. Later this year, Ruth Eckerd plans to begin raising funds for a major renovation of the theater.

Ruth Eckerd had the building inspected before the city bought it, so Ruth Eckerd will pick up the $15,000 tab for the mold cleanup, Freedman said.

"We had it inspected for asbestos. Typically, if that showed any evidence of mold, it would have been reported to us," he said.

Maybe some water intrusion into the rear of the building caused the mold just recently, but it's impossible to know for sure, Freedman said.

Once the cleanup is finished, a concert by pianist William Joseph scheduled for next Saturday will be held inside the Capitol Theatre as planned, Freedman said. "This will be behind us, and we'll go forward."

Times staff writer Keith Niebuhr contributed to this report. Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Todd Rundgren concert moves outdoors after mold found in Clearwater's Capitol Theatre 03/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 8:42pm]
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