The Crowd: Getting ready for the gala

Art patroness and respected Orange County barrister Elaine Weinberg sat at the antique Bösendorfer grand piano playing "Our Love Is Here to Stay."

Attired in a chic summer-weight crème-colored knit pants ensemble, Weinberg glanced across the baronial living room toward a sofa where her daughter Nancy Dahan, also a talented attorney, smiled at her. Soon the pair were both seated at the grand as the crowd gathered around singing the lyrics, "It's very clear, our love is here to stay."

It was just a slice of summer on the Balboa Peninsula as some 50 VIP guests converged upon the exquisite bayfront estate of David and Barbara Cline for a little dinner conversation, a sunset cocktail or two, and some serious fundraising support for South Coast Repertory.

The soirée honored SCR patrons who have volunteered time, talent and resources creating the upcoming SCR gala slated for Sept. 8.

Chairwoman Beth Phelps welcomed the assemblage on the waterfront terrace of the Cline manor, "Setting the Stage" for the ball, one of the most important fundraisers of SCR's annual campaign.

Phelps, the wife of SCR board President Tom Phelps, joined another long-standing SCR loyalist Olivia Johnson sharing details of the massive party undertaking with donors.

"'Setting the Stage' is the perfect name for the 2012 gala," petite powerhouse Johnson said. "We've chosen a theatrical theme because simply, that's what we are all about. ... And it's what we do best at SCR galas."

The gala will, as tradition calls for, kick off the official 2012-13 social season on the Orange Coast. It is always one of the most fabulous parties of the year as organizers go over the top to produce a spectacle more impressive than any before.

Phelps told the crowd that the cuisine this year will be in the talented hands of Executive Chef Chris Savage. The world-famous culinary expert has worked in kitchens from London to Melbourne, Washington, D.C. and Chicago before landing in O.C.

Philanthropist John Tu will once again front his society orchestra J.T. and the California Dreamin', with lavish décor in the capable charge of Sophie Cripe working with gala designer Tom Buderwitz.

Guests reveling in the Newport twilight over the harbor and sampling the delicacies of Mark's Catering included Bette and Wylie Aitken with their daughter Ashleigh Aitken and Michael Penn, Victor Dahan, husband of Nancy Dahan, Nadine and Bob Hall, Andy Johnson, husband of Olivia Johnson, Tom Rogers and Sally Anderson, Nola Schneer in from Palm Desert, Don Carnegie and Ardelle St. George, and Sue and John Murphy.

Also on hand for the festivities were Pam and Jim Muzzy, Elizabeth and Steve Rabosky, Bob and Susan Ehrlich, Bill Klein, and Toni Berlinger.

The gala will unfold at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa. For ticket information, call SCR Development Director Susan Reeder at (714) 708-5518.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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