The Valley Line: Theater at its best

LA Canada

Last week was a bonanza for musical theater aficionados with the opening of two major Broadway revivals. On Tuesday night, "A Chorus Line" opened to a sold-out crowd at Hollywood's historic Pantages Theatre.

Rogers and Hammerstein's endearing musical "South Pacific" opened at the Ahmanson Theatre on Wednesday night to an equally packed and wildly enthusiastic house.

"A Chorus Line," which opened on Broadway in 1975 and has won nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama, has not lost its magnetic attraction and is as compelling and fresh as when it first opened. "A Chorus Line" was revived on Broadway in 2006.

It features 19 main characters and is set on a bare stage of a Broadway theater during an audition for a musical. The show provides a glimpse into the personalities of the performers and the choreographer as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers.

This dynamic Pantages production will close Sunday.

On Wednesday night, the Ahmanson Theatre's patio was alive with glamorous celebrities from the original Broadway play and the film version, who were being interviewed on the red carpet. Theatergoers were abuzz with excitement and anticipation of this revival show.

Several minutes past its scheduled opening, the curtain finally rose on one of America's most beloved musicals, "South Pacific."

This musical, based on James A. Michner's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1948 novel "Tales of the South Pacific," opened on Broadway in 1949 with stars Enzio Pinza and Mary Martin.

Expertly reprising these roles in the Ahmanson production is Rod Gilfry, who found his first musical home with the Los Angeles Opera, and Carmen Cusack.

The crowd of first-nighters left the theater singing familiar songs such as "Some Enchanted Evening," "I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair," "Happy Talk" and "A cockeyed Optimist," to name a few.

I, along with about everyone else in the theater that night, was loving seeing the magic of Bali Hai wash over all of us once again.

This production, which comes from New York's Lincoln Center, runs through July 17.

It was a memorable evening when the Los Angeles Children's Chorus honored four celebrated luminaries and arts patrons for their artistic and philanthropic contributions at the beautiful Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The event, themed "Starry Night," honored internationally acclaimed opera star Suzanna Guzman, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock and arts volunteers and patrons Stuart and Rebecca Bowne.

"These four extraordinary people have long championed Los Angeles Children's Chorus," said David Scheidemantle, chair of the chorus' Board of Directors. "We are extremely grateful to them for their major artistic, volunteer and philanthropic contributions, which have helped shape the choir on innumerable levels and raise its stature immeasurably. It is a pleasure to recognize them publicly for their unwavering support of LACC."

The benefit raised more than $100,000 for LACC's outstanding artistic and music education programs.

Toasting the quartet of honorees in grand musical style were surprise performances by celebrated soprano Elissa Johnston, and Greg Fedderly, a leading tenor of the Metropolitan Opera.

LACC members, conducted by Artistic Director Anne Tomlinson, as well as the LACC Young Men's Ensemble, led by Steven Kronauer, concluded the musical tribute.

The ballroom where the benefit was held was filled with the colors of the south of France. The dining tables were centered with bouquets of sunflowers — a la Van Gogh.

The benefit featured a festive wine reception with passed hors d'oeuvres, a three-course gourmet dinner created by the Biltmore's acclaimed executive chef Franco De Dominicis.

While guests sipped different wines, they had an opportunity to bid on one-of-a-kind items such as a "couture" package by designer Kevan Hall, who is known for his "quietly elegant" draped evening wear worn by celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Marcia Cross, and Vanessa Williams, as well as a custom-made shoes by L.A. shoe designer Wendy Holden.

Also up for auction was an L.A. cultural extravaganza with premium tickets to some of the city's hottest events, and a sports package that featured a photo shoot at a child's sporting or performance event by Andrew Bernstein, the official photographer for the NBA.

"Starry Night" co-chairs, who did a magnificent job crafting all the details of the evening to perfection, included LCF resident Katherine Kavich, Jennifer Harris Sliskovich, Andrea Greene Willard, Alma Aroustamian and Annie Yeager Higgins.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World