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Scene & Heard: 'Next to Normal' opening night at the Ahmanson Theatre

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Where else but Los Angeles could the names in the audience be as familiar as those onstage? Witness the Nov. 28 opening for "Next to Normal," the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical at the Ahmanson Theatre. The guests included Keely and Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Camryn Manheim, Sarah Silverman, Rob Corddry, Tracie Thoms of "Cold Case," Adam Brody of "The O.C.," Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sarah Hyland of "Modern Family" and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day.

The Founders Room had quite a crowd as well, including Karla and Bill Ahmanson, Louise Taper and Doug Walker, Judy and Tom Beckman, Diane Morton and Stan Fineman, Betty Ann and Frank Brooks, Martin Massman, Walter Mirisch and Betsy Applebaum.

So why the attraction? Despite the difficulty of the play's theme — mental illness — "it's a terrific evening of theater," said Bill Ahmanson, president of the Center Theatre Group, which includes the Ahmanson, the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Elation best described the mood at the Border Grill's after-party, where cast members Alice Ripley, Asa Somers, Emma Hunton, Curt Hansen, Preston Sadleir and Jeremy Kushnier celebrated with producer David Stone, composer Tom Kitt, lyricist Brian Yorkey and director Michael Greif.

"I listen for the moments that pop," Kitt said. "I could tell the audience got on board right away."

Manheim said she suffered from "talent envy," given the acting and singing abilities of the cast.

For more coverage, please see Page D17 in today's Calendar section.

A salute to 'Rigoletto'

Across the Music Center Plaza the previous night, the L.A. Opera feted the cast of "Rigoletto," following the opera's premiere at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

With a nod toward Thanksgiving weekend, board chairman Marc Stern offered thanks for "what we saw onstage tonight" and for the recent contract renewals of general director Plácido Domingo and Music Director James Conlon.

After introducing the cast, Conlon acknowledged the production's underwriters: Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman, Geraldine and Harold Alden and Marybelle and Sebastian Paul Musco.

"We work hard, but without you we couldn't do our work," Conlon said.

Spotted too were opera board President Carol Henry, Chapman University President James Doti and his wife, Lynne, and Bette and Wylie Aitken.

L.A. Conservancy fundraiser

Producer Michael LaFetra opened his Malibu home Nov. 20 for "Seaside Chic in the Colony," giving supporters of the Los Angeles Conservancy a chance to wander through his teak, cedar, fir and curved-concrete beach abode, before adjourning to nearby Nobu for a Japanese feast.

The fundraiser netted more than $100,000 to help preserve L.A.'s architectural heritage. "We've fought a lot of battles," said board President Charmaine Atherton, naming the Century Plaza as a recent victory. Thanks to the conservancy's efforts and others, the hotel — which had been destined for destruction — will become the centerpiece of a new complex of shops, restaurants, offices and residences in Century City.

Event co-chair Lauren King said the group holds its events at historic sites, such as LaFetra's house, which was designed by John Lautner, the architect responsible for some of the city's most original homes. King added that she hopes to increase awareness in Beverly Hills, where she and the conservancy's executive director, Linda Dishman, will join author Frank Escher on March 3 for a talk about Lautner for the Beverly Hills Historical Society at the Beverly Hills Women's Club.

King and Diane Keaton served as event co-chairs, with guests including Susan and Peter Strauss, Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow, and Cedd Moses.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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