Event raised a record $1.4 million for venue

WASHINGTON — Executives of Ford’s Theater are in a celebratory mood following a boffo fundraising gala that will be telecast by ABC on Independence Day.

With President and Mrs. George W. Bush seated as usual in the front row and other dignitaries looking on, the 36-year-old “American Celebration” event March 14 raised a record $1.4 million for the historic theater. Entertainment, emceed by Kelsey Grammer, included Patti LaBelle, Jessica Simpson, Michelle Williams, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and David Spade.

That the affair produced record revenues only one year after the death of the theater’s founding producer, Frankie Hewitt, is a tribute to an influential board of directors and determined management. Event also served as introductory venue for Hewitt’s newly tapped successor, Paul Tetreault, former managing director of Houston’s Alley Theater. He promised to take the revered institution to the “next level” artistically.

“My vision is to have this theater known as much for the quality of the work on this stage as it is for one terrible day in our history by bringing the best of the American theater to Ford’s,” Tetreault told the audience. He said he envisions Ford’s as a showcase for Americana and vowed to bring “the greatest theater artists working today — directors, designers, actors and artisans.”

A White House reception preceded the event; previous evening featured a huge reception at the Capitol.

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