After Jean Stapleton's performance in the West Coast premiere of Lee Hoiby's "Bon Appetit!," Julia Child stood up from her aisle seat in the audience and acknowledged the applause. It isn't often that a chef/television personality becomes an overnight poet/librettist.
Dressed in a modest blue skirt with a colorful print blouse, Child, 76, had come to Long Beach from her home in Santa Barbara with her husband, Paul, to see the performance for the first time. When asked if she liked the way she was portrayed on the stage, Child was quick to point out that she thought Stapleton's performance had really cooked.
"I only wish I could have sung it like that when I originally did it," laughed Child, referring to the 1961 telecast upon which the text of the piece was based. "Wasn't it just wonderful?"
A long line of admirers seeking Child's autograph formed during intermission. Although the task of greeting each and every one of them seemed impossible, not to mention a bit nerve-racking, Child spoke with them all, exuberant and happy.
A small reception followed honoring Child, Stapleton and Hoiby. The caterers even baked a chocolate cake following the recipe from "Bon Appetit!"
The chocolate creation proved a bit lopsided and small for a two-pan cake. But after a bit of effort from Child and Stapleton to cut the first piece, the fudgy cake was quickly cut up into bite-size pieces and devoured.
Television personalities Larry Storch and Marion Ross, who worked with Stapleton in a recent production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," were also there.
"I'm not really an opera singer. I prefer to call this musical monologue," insisted Stapleton, who seemed to shy away from the thought of changing careers. " 'Candide' is the only real opera I've ever done, not to mention all the musicals I've been in. For the past few years I've been doing lots of theater and hope to start a new television series soon. I don't know where all of this will lead."