Over the last century it presented silent films, rock concerts, Sicilian puppet shows and even a legendary theatrical disaster from Orson Welles. But for the past two decades in the Stony Creek section of Branford, the little theater \u2014 last named the Stony Creek Puppet House \u2014 has been a boarded-up shell. That is until a group of theater lovers eight years ago set out to bring the theater back to life. After community meetings, permit approvals and a years-long fundraising campaign that attracted $5 million, the newly named, nonprofit Legacy Theatre opened April 23 for a socially distant, one-quarter capacity concert by Broadway performer Telly Leung. \u201cI\u2019m hoping the in-person show becomes a glimmer of hope that says we\u2019ll all be back in the theater soon,\u201d said Leung, who has starred in the title role in Broadway\u2019s \u201cAladdin,\u201d as well as in \u201cIn Transit,\u201d \u201cPacific Overtures,\u201d \u201cGodspell\u201d and \u201cAllegiance.\u201d The journey to completion was slow going at first, led by Keely Baisden Knudsen, an actress, director, choreographer and professor, and Stephanie Stiefel Williams, an actress and former attorney. The Thimble Islands Road location first saw a non-denominational church in 1866. After a fire, the property was sold in 1914 when the new structure became a movie house, then a community theater (the Parish Players), then a summer theater, a parachute factory during World War II, then a home to Materna-Line (\u201cthe pantie and girdle that\u2019s a stretch ahead\u201d) until 1960. For the remainder of the 20th century it was a puppet museum that presented puppet shows. After purchasing the building and its adjacent artist cottage for $400,000 in 2013, the team set out to ease concerns from residents of the quiet neighborhood about what they would be presenting \u2014 and what kind of audiences the theater would attract. Reassurance was given there would be no rock concerts or dubious rentals. Concerns about parking were remedied with a shuttle service to a commuter lot off nearby I-95. In 2017 the final town permits were secure and fundraising began in earnest, buoyed by designs of a clean, wood-lined interior and a spiffed-up exterior. Renovations began in 2019 with the inside of the building gutted while the outside retained his historic facade. The pandemic slowed construction but also allowed for adjustments, such a state-of-the-art HVAC system and a back-of-house area for recording and live-streaming. The end result was a proscenium-stage theater with the audience on risers with a 127-seat capacity. The Legacy is expected to operate with an Actors\u2019 Equity Association contract for a small professional theater. The project cost is over $5.4 million, said Knudsen, who is also producing artistic director. A quarter of the budget came from state and federal funds, including $1.1 million in state tax credits; 65 percent from individuals and 10 percent from corporations and foundations. So how does a theater make it with only 30 people in the audience? \u201cWe do have to lean heavily on fundraising,\u201d Knudsen said. \u201cWe anticipate sponsorships and memberships and donations as well as ticket sales and go from there.\u201d During the regular season, tickets will run from $45 to $75, with lower prices for the theater\u2019s family series. Shows will also be presented virtually when contracts allow and Knudsen sees potential online ticket sales supplementing in-house purchases. Slated for the first year of operation are five locally produced professional plays that Knudsen will direct: the comedy \u201cBarefoot in the Park\u201d (running through May 23); \u201cJust Desserts: A Musical Bake-Off\u201d (June 2-27); the Greek drama \u201cOedipus Rex\u201d (July 28-Aug. 22); the musical \u201cThe Last Five Years\u201d (Sept. 4-26) and \u201cA Christmas Carol\u201d (Dec. 1-12). The family series includes \u201cPolkadots: The Cool Kids Musical\u201d (May 1-29); \u201cJoan Joyce\u201d (June 5-26); and \u201cCardboard Explosion\u201d (July 3). A Broadway concert series will begin with Marty Thomas on May 27; Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte on May 28; and Tony Award nominee Bryce Pinkham and Scarlett Strallen (A Gentleman\u2019s Guide to Love & Murder) on May 29 \u2014 and will continue through the summer. Special events will include Orson Rehearsed, \u201ca multi-media stream of consciousness dreamscape film\/opera\/concert work\/web installation,\u201d with three singers portraying the iconic filmmaker, on Aug. 29. (In 1938, Welles\u2019 summer production of William Gillette\u2019s Too Much Johnson was a famous flop at the theater, then called the Stony Creek Theatre.) Knudsen said it\u2019s been quite a journey from the initial concept to opening night. \u201cSeeing the gold proscenium go up recently was an emotional moment for me,\u201d she said. \u201cSeeing it come together before my very eyes, I can\u2019t even describe the feeling. This is beyond my wildest dreams.\u201d This article originally appeared in Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here. Sign up for the newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. On Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.