Preview of the new Manatee Performing Arts Center

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BRADENTON - The long-awaited Manatee Performing Arts Center finally opens its doors this weekend, and ABC 7’s Linda Carson got a sneak peek inside.

The center is beautiful outside, and state of the art inside.

The chandelier in the lobby was in the movie "Gone With the Wind. "It is one of ones hanging on the 12 Oaks set of Gone With the Wind. It came to us through the Sarasota Opera Company; they had it in their lobby for many years. But after their recent renovation they were not able to hang it in the lobby again, and they were thrilled that it could find it a new home in a beautiful new theater," says marketing manager Denny Miller.

The control booth is located in the rear of the theater high above the audience. It's equipped with all the latest in theatrical technology. "We have new lighting equipment, new sound system, and all of that will be run from that area in the back of the theater," says artistic director Rick Kerby.

It's so high-tech, a class in theatrical technology will be taught there. "Computers control not only the sound board, our projections for the show, the light board, also the out front – we will have TV screens showing slide shows in the cabaret area, main stage…all over the place," says technical director Bill Booth.

And lighting and special effects are controlled on the catwalk that runs across the top of the theater. "We could do flying effects from here, we could do fog machines, we could drop things on the audience from here. So it gives us a lot of possibilities," says Kerby.

The new orchestra pit is much larger than the old one. "If we got five musicians in there we were lucky; we could put 40 musicians in the new space."

And the new stage is much bigger. The acting space is three times larger than it was in the old theatre. The stage is 36 feet wide, and a helicopter will land there in Miss Saigon.

40 sets can be lowered from above, compared to 10 in the old theater. And sets and props can come up from below. "The theater over here has three trap doors in the stage where we can make people and scenery pop up and down through the floor any particular show."

The new Manatee Performing Arts Center is home of the Manatee Players and pride of the entire Manatee County community.