The Crowd: Season premiere concert draws in Broadway star and funds for OCSA

It is one of a small contingent of public nonprofit schools nationwide dedicated to the study of the performing arts.

Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) welcomed a sold-out crowd Saturday evening celebrating its second annual season premiere concert, dinner and fundraiser.


Hosted by Balboa Bay Resort and underwritten by major OCSA benefactor Carole Pickup, the evening under the stars on the bayfront lawn facing the main channel of Newport Harbor featured Broadway actress/singer and OCSA alumna Krysta Rodriguez.

The evening celebrated the start of OCSA's 31st season on the Orange Coast. Established in 1987, the school is known for providing tuition-free academic and arts education for students hoping and preparing for a future career in the world of performance.


More than 2,000 students in grades seven through 12 come from five regional counties and some 120 SoCal cities to attend the school.

OCSA, in its nonprofit public status, relies heavily on private donations needing to raise some $8.5 million annually to fund 14 pre-professional arts training conservatories within the school program.

For this reason, the second annual dinner fundraiser is significant. Every dollar counts. With Pickup serving as honorary producer, the costs were "picked up," enabling OCSA to add profitable dollars to its operating budgets.

Balboa Bay Resort staff staged the verdant green bay front lawn set with round tables and chairs to seat 300 guests.

The party began at dusk.

The crowd arrived for cocktails and hors d' oeuvres and premium seating — $3,000 for a table of 10 — sold out quickly.

Chef Rachel Haggstrom of the hotel created a lovely late summer three-course dinner for the guests, who enjoyed wine pairings for the evening celebration.

Spotted in the crowd were major benefactors Harriet and Sandy Sanhu of Pelican Point, Michael and Maria Fong, Susan and Troy Merell, Lisa Argyros, John Massa, Hillary and Joe Gerber, and Pickup entertaining family including Devon and Kevin Martin, Maddie Martin, Ryan Martin, and Balboa Bay Club manager Leticia Rice with husband David Rice.

OCSA boss Ralph Opacic and wife Sherry Opacic welcomed VIPs and close friends of the school, which he has proudly championed.

Joining the Opacics were Susan Egan Hartmann and Robert Hartmann, Tammi and Bob Cluck, Kathy and Perry Rodriquez, Mohamed El-Erian and Anna Stylianides.

Following dinner service, the highlight of the event unfolded on a stage erected on the waterfront.

Krysta Rodriguez, a 2002 graduate of OCSA, fronted a marvelous variety production of music and dance supported by talented OCSA performers.

Rodriquez has earned praise for her seven Broadway roles including "In The Heights," "A Chorus Line" and "Spring Awakening," among others. She also originated the role of Wednesday Addams in the original cast of "The Addams Family."

When she was as student at OCSA, Rodriguez had an early taste of stardom cast in the leading role of "Gidget: The Musical," co-written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Needless to say, Rodriguez brought the OCSA audience to its feet in a standing ovation.

Helping to support OCSA during its special evening were Mary Ellen Bowman, Krista Nicholds, the Callero family, Greg McCollum, Jeff Van Hoosear, Cathy Michaels, Whitney and Jerry Mandel, the Amarasuriya family, Carolyn and Emily Baggarty, David Belmer and Becca and Matt Freeland.

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