The Crowd: Russian ballet dancers reunite at the Segerstrom to delight of patrons and public alike

Philanthropist and underwriter Elizabeth Segerstrom, center, with the cast of Reunited in Dance.
Philanthropist and underwriter Elizabeth Segerstrom, center, with the cast of Reunited in Dance at a recent sold-out performance at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
(Lauren Hillary)

The holiday season was ushered in with dance and song as grand performances took the stages of the O.C.

Special guest Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, and Meaghan Lloyd with producer Elizabeth Segerstrom.
Special guest Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, and Meaghan Lloyd with producer Elizabeth Segerstrom at Reunited in Dance held at SCFTA.
(Lauren Hillary)

A remarkable evening unfolded at Segerstrom Center for the Arts Nov. 12 as Reunited in Dance welcomed world-renowned ballet dancers for a one-night only performance on the Reneé and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall stage, Costa Mesa. Under the artistic direction of Xander Parish, former principal dancer at the Mariinsky Ballet, the sold-out evening found its program focus on artists with credentials and ties to the preeminent ballet companies of Russia and Ukraine. Dancers represented the legacy of the Bolshoi, Mikhailovsky and Mariinsky ballets and the Stanislavsky Theatre. Of important note, many of the dancers left Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. This very emotional night of dazzling performances was produced by Elizabeth Segerstrom, principal underwriter and visionary philanthropist supporting classic cultural endeavors across the worlds of dance, opera, theater and literature carrying forward the respected foundation created by her late husband and the Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom Foundation in association with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, arrives at Reunited in Dance.
Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, arrives at Reunited in Dance at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
(Bill Thompson)

The demand for tickets beyond the capacity of Segerstrom Concert Hall prompted the creation of an outdoor simulcast on the Julia and George Argyros Plaza adjacent to the Hall. The free event attracted literally thousands of citizens immersed in classic dance broadcast on giant walls with scenes from Swan Lake, Don Quixote and Le Corsaire.

A stellar crowd of very significant arts patrons came in droves: Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, honorary chair of L.A. Opera Marc Stern and Eva Stern, chair of Turnaround Arts: California Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Meaghan Lloyd and Craig Webb of architectural firm Gehry Partners, and Segerstrom Center‘s executive vice president, the much respected pioneer Judy Morr, all front and center. Arts advocates supporting the evening were Melissa Barak, artistic director of Los Angeles Ballet, Rob Ballis from the Broad Stage, author Ian Kelly, Segerstrom Center Board Chair Jane Fujishiga Yada and arts philanthropist Valerie Von Sobel.

Song-stylists Bill Grubman and Judy Whitmore perform at Samueli Theatre.
Song-stylists Bill Grubman and Judy Whitmore perform renditions from the Classic American Songbook at Samueli Theatre.
(Amy Cantrell)

The Samueli Theatre became a New York Supper Club

They call the act, and this particular show, “Two For The Road.” Brother-sister song-stylists Judy Whitmore and Bill Grubman turned the classy Samueli Theatre at SCFTA into a New York Night Club for a one-Saturday-night tour de force outing they labeled as “On the Road Again with the American Songbook.” The duo have been doing just that. From Carnegie Hall in New York to nightclubs and cabarets across the nation and Europe, the glorious sound of the Big Band comes to life as Grubman and Whitmore are backed by a 15-piece world-class orchestra that even the late ol’ blue eyes would be very proud to sign with.

The inspiration for this performance comes from a very special song. “It’s one of my most favorite Henry Mancini compositions,” shares the talented, female member of the team Judy Whitmore. “Two For The Road,” the original title song for the 1967 film by the same name with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and starring Audrey Hepburn, “makes me feel romantic and sentimental every time I hear the opening note,” adds Whitmore.

Peishe McPhee and Judy Whitmore join vocal forces on stage at the Samueli Theatre.
(Amy Cantrell)

Fronting the big band was the artistic director and conductor John Sawoski. Also, on stage for a powerful cameo performance with Whitmore was songstress Peishe McPhee with a commanding vocal range and electric style complimenting Whitmore’s sultry softer, sexy approach.

On the male side of the partnership, Bill Grubman performed a rendition of “Children Will Listen,” by Stephen Sondheim from the Broadway show “Into The Woods,” with emotional range and vocal perfection delivered piano side with Sawoski on the keyboard. Taking a step away from the classic American Songbook, the pair shared memories of their friendship with the late John and Annie Denver and sang a medley of Denver hits. Perfectly charming.

In the enthusiastic crowd were former president of the SCFTA Jerry Mandel, also an accomplished jazz saxophonist, and his wife, the lovely Whitney Mandel, Frank Wagner and his bride, the talented and stunning vocalist Lynn Wagner, who has graced many local O.C. stages, Linda and Steve Genewick, Eugene and Carol Choi, Leslie and Scott Seigal of California Closets fame, Steve Braun, Beckett Braun and Carolann Braun, popular big band vocalist Luke Carlsen, Judy’s husband Wess Whitmore, with Judy and Bill’s sister Patty Grubman, and Bill Grubman’s son Matthew Grubman.

Whitney Mandel, Jerry Mandel and Frank and Lynn Wagner attend “Two For The Road” at the Samueli Theatre.
(Amy Cantrell)

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