The Crowd: South Coast Repertory gala celebrates with flair

The fall social season on the Orange Coast officially opened Sept. 16 with the South Coast Repertory gala billed as “Let’s Play” held at The Westin South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa.

Two hundred devoted theater patrons emerged for the annual formal affair intent on raising needed dollars to fund the theater company’s annual budget.

By the end of the glittering night of celebration and community camaraderie, an estimated $300,000 had been raised.

Chaired with style and enthusiasm by Taya Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker, the multi-tiered party experience unfolded with ease.

The crowd arrived at the Westin greeted in a pre-function foyer by mannequins adorned in fanciful costumes representing SCP productions.

Waiters passed signature cocktails named “Leading Lady” and “The Heartthrob” that were created with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Very theatrical, indeed.

Sax player Vaughn Fahie blew on his horn to set the off-Broadway mood as the crowd, including Newport’s robotic pioneer and tech wizard Joel Slutzky and wife Judy joined son Alan Slutzky, SCR Board of Trustees chairman, for the evening.

Joining the Slutzkys were prominent citizens Tracy and Roger Kirwan, Maralou and Jerry Harrington, Barbara and David Cline, Bette and Wylie Aitken, and Julianne and George Argyros.

As the reception came to its close, opening remarks from SCR Artistic Director Marc Masterson and Managing Director Paula Tomei, welcomed the donors and invited them into a transformed ballroom for dinner and dancing.

Party planners created a dramatic setting, placing an all-white gloss dance floor in the center of the room, surrounded by tables. The old-world night club style looked to be the Waldorf Astoria hotel ballroom recreated in Costa Mesa.

Guests dined on a lavish multi-course dinner that began with a lobster fennel salad followed by an entrée of roasted tenderloin and orange-ginger glazed salmon.

A decadent dessert trio including chocolate ganache cake, New York cheesecake and a chocolate and berry cup concluded the feast.

Committee members made certain every detail was perfection.

Credit goes to longtime SCR patrons including Sally Anderson, Kathryn Cenci, Sophie Hall-Cripe, Olivia Johnson, Sarah McElroy and Jane Taylor.

Also taking a bow for SCR were Sue Hecht, Shannon Kennedy, Richele Lowery, Carole Meltzer, Stacey Nicolas, Jeanne Pepper, Susan Shieldkret-Dull and Paul Gadbut.

The party took on a decidedly New York feeling as guest star Allison Case, a graduate of the SCR Conservatory, took the stage to entertain guests.

Case has appeared on Broadway in shows including, “Hair,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Matilda.”

She delighted the local theatre aficionados with her music selection and stories of Broadway. As the dessert was served, Case finished her set and turned the party over to dance band “Dallas & Doll” to get the crowd on the white dance floor.

Act III of the evening took guests out of the ballroom and into an intimate lounge for late night gourmet coffee and sweets by Lette Macaroons.

A gelato bar from Mangiamo Gelato Coffee company tempted the midnight revelers.

Major sponsors of the gala include South Coast Plaza, Wells Fargo, Sabra Health Care REIT, Inc., and Le Grand Courtâge Champagne.

Founded in 1984 by David Emmes and Martin Benson, South Coast Repertory Theatre has become a nationally recognized regional force in the world of American theatre.

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B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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