The Crowd: Symphony celebrates in grand style

The crowd arrived in black tie and mask. It was, after all, the night before Halloween, and The Pacific Symphony celebrated in grand style with the opening night pops concert billed as "An Evening of Sentiment and Mystery." The occasion marked the 20th anniversary performance for pops conductor Richard Kaufman. Kaufman led the Pacific Symphony in a wonderful program that featured the starring roles of accomplished Broadway actors billing themselves as "The Three Phantoms." By the end of the Saturday night event, The Pacific Symphony had raised $125,000 from some 200 VIP guests who had come to thank Richard Kaufman for two decades of enchanting entertainment.

The party began at The Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel as the masked guests arrived for sunset cocktails. Greeted by brightly costumed stilt walkers, jugglers, and commedia del' arte performers guests including event co-chair Sally Anderson, Lee Ann and Chris Canaday, Patricia and Otis Cranford, and Rosalie Delmonico, looking smashing in her red satin ball gown and white fur stole, with debonair husband Lou Delmonico, helped to celebrate the 20th anniversary masquerade theme.

Sally Anderson was joined by Donna Schroeder and Jane Taylor chairing the dinner concert event. Taking the theme from "The Phantom of the Opera," the ballroom was decorated a la the "Masked Ball," which was part and parcel of the theme relating to the musical. The ladies in charge were supported by two very high end retail partners, St. John and Ermenegildo Zegna. St. John models in their exquisite winter line paraded the party showing off the goods.

A three-course dinner was served by The Westin's executive chef, Hussain Zouhbi, which began with a grilled vegetable salad, followed by a mixed grill entrée of filet and shrimp and a dessert sampler featuring a triad of treats including a tasty pumpkin mousse to note the occasion of the coming of Halloween. Symphony president John Forsyte introduced board chair and event chair Sally Anderson thanking the audience for their generous support. Music director Carl St. Clair was invited to the podium to share personal history with pops conduction Richard Kaufman over their two decade friendship and working relationship.

Kaufman was then introduced with a standing ovation, and in his very glib and sophisticated yet self-deprecating humor, had the crowd laughing at anecdotes over foibles interspersed with stories of great success during his 20-year run with the Pacific Symphony. Kaufman's wife, Gayle, and their daughter, Whitney, were at the front table in honor of the conductor. Whitney Kaufman is starring in a leading role in the Broadway musical "Momma Mia" touring the nation. Also front and center for Richard Kaufman were his parents Margye and Walter Kaufman in from Los Angeles for the special night. Kaufman said, "My parents have always been there for me. Can you imagine putting up with a 7-year-old kid practicing his violin at 6 a.m. before school?"

Following dinner the VIP guests exited the red carpeted ball room for the short walk to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for the opening night pops performance which was arguably one of the finest ever presented to the Orange County audience. The stars of the show were three actors; Craig Schulman, Kevin Gray and Brad Little, all of whom came to the Segerstrom Stage with impressive Broadway resumes and even more impressive vocal talent. In the second act, each of the actors, who at different points in their respective careers had performed the role of "the Phantom," hence the name of the show, "The Three Phantoms," shared with the audience their own personal history on how they each came to follow their path of musical performance. This segment was surely the most original and most interesting part of the program. Of course, the big finish was the performance by all three of them singing the title song from Andrew Lloyd Weber's phenomenon, "The Phantom of the Opera".

Also spotted in the crowd were Ruth Ann and John Evans, Reta and Gordon Fishman, Michele Forsyte, wife of Symphony President John Forsyte, Lynn and Doug Freeman, Petrina Friede and her husband Jerry Friede, Ellie and Mike Gordon, Michelle and David Horowitz, Madeline and Leonard Zuckerman, Robin and Steve Kalota, Nancy and Kim Kelley, Roger Kirwan and Tracy Martin, and Tony Award-winning actress Nanette Fabray. Also supporting the Symphony were Shawn and Robert Magnuson, Hap and Alice Payne, and a large contingent of major Symphony underwriters, members of the Segerstrom family including Sandra Segerstrom and John Daniels, Susie and Steve Perry, Sally Segerstrom, and Ted and Rae Segerstrom.

A smashing start to the 2010-11 Pacific Symphony season made possible by the generous support of the community along with significant funding by corporate sponsors including American Airlines, South Coast Plaza, The Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel and more.

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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