High school seniors stage sizzling benefit for historic Miller Theatre
By Don Rhodes| Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010

One of the best shows I've seen lately was the talent contest and musical fundraiser held Jan. 9 to benefit the Miller Theatre.

An enthusiastic audience packed the 350 seats in the activities center of West Acres Baptist Church in Evans. The evening, with radio personality Helen Blocker Adams serving as host, featured dancers, singers, musicians and actors/actresses.

It was organized by Greenbrier High School seniors Michael Ryan, Kathryn Bonner, Lizzie Derr and Zachary Lewallen for their senior projects.

Michael Deas, of Augusta Amusements Co., and I talked about the history and entertainment highlights of the once grand showplace in the 700 block of Broad Street that will mark its 70th birthday on Feb. 26.

Here are some highlights I discovered in researching my talk:

- The Miller opened with a hit musical direct from Broadway, A Night at the Moulin Rouge .

- Nov. 2, 1940: CBS radio comedians Lum (Chet Lanck) and Abner (Norris Goff) were the first celebrities to appear in the Miller.

- March 1, 1941: Tallulah Bankhead starred in a matinee and evening performance of The Little Foxes .

- Jan. 27, 1946: The movie Colonel Effingham's Raid , based on the book by Augustan Berry Fleming, had its first Georgia showing in the Miller.

- Jan. 19, 1949: Bob Hope stood out front of the Miller to promote the March of Dimes campaign. He was in Augusta with singer Doris Day and Irene Ryan (later to become Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies TV series) for a show in Bell Auditorium.

- Oct. 16, 1950: Country music superstar Eddy Arnold performed a show at 11 p.m.

- Sept. 18, 1957: The movie The Three Faces of Eve , based on a book by two Augusta psychiatrists, had its world premiere in the Miller.

- March 23-24, 1973: The Florida band Lynyrd Skynyrd performed.

- Jan. 19, 1985: Apparently the last public usage of the Miller was the Augusta Opera's production of Regina, based on Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes .

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 39 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.

From the Thursday, January 14, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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