Sunday, March 30, 2014

Center Theatre Group Gala: A Night in Downtown LA with Barry Manilow

Last weekend I slipped out of my sweatpants and into a dress and headed into Downtown Los Angeles for Center Theatre Group's annual gala.

Located adjacent to Walt Disney Concert Hall (home to the LA Philharmonic) and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (which houses the LA Opera), Center Theatre Group is the theatre company in LA - a pillar of the city's cultural scene. The Group puts on the highest quality and broadest range of productions, from groundbreaking new works to a discerningly curated collection of Olivier and Tony Award winning West End and Broadway hits (often with original cast). CTG also run great outreach programs that support emerging artists and engage young people in Los Angeles who are underexposed to the theatre and fine arts. The idea is that these young people might need a push in the right direction to create interest and realise talent in an artistic field that otherwise they might have not pursued. Center Theatre Group's annual gala gives its donors a chance to don formal wear in celebration of The Group's great work.

It's confession time now. I was quite the bad blogger this night. I looked quite a mess having gotten ready in 15 minutes after having to take my dog to the vet (he was bit by a snake, but he's fine). I'm also not quite accustomed to snapping photos at a formal event, so sorry for the shoddy and sparse pics.

We arrived early, just as Los Angeles was cast into its golden evening light. As we tottered into the glittering, Art Deco styled Opera Pavilion, we were greeted by a dapper lineup of waiters holding drink trays.










This is my beautiful sister, S. Can you believe she's only 17?

I'm wearing: DVF dress (similar here) // Christian Louboutin Neofilos in Cognac (no longer available, I'm afraid) // beaded clutch from Anthropologie (similar here) // Essie Nail Varnish in Mint Candy Apple

S is in: Urban Outfitters jumpsuit // Zara tweed blazer (similar here) // Swedish-style clogs // Mulberry Suffolk bag (although you can't see it) // Daniel Wellington watch 

I finished wine in above photo in record time, which may have contributed to my laughably deplorable blogging mindset/photo posing…

Had a taste of this Manhattan. Possibly the worst drink ever, I'm still cringing thinking of it.
After joining up with some friends and casting our lot in for a chance to win a Hawaiian vacation, a ton  couple of canap├ęs, and a gin and tonic later, we headed up the grand staircase to the ballroom for the dinner and auction portion of the night. Dinner was, as one must expect with mass-produced food, uninspired: some kind of cucumber-y prawn cocktail thing, filet mignon, and a mousse-y thing for dessert. The food didn't matter, however, because we had our friends from out of town at our table to entertain us, as well as a young girl who had participated in one of Center Theatre Group's youth development programs. Aged 16 and headed to university already, she was a bright young thing and brilliant to chat to! 

While we munched, Barry Manilow and his longtime friend and colleague, Bruce Sussman, marched up onto the stage for a Q-and-A about their brainchild musical, "Harmony", which we were going to be treated to later on. They made us giggle and gave us some insight into what it took to get "Harmony" into production, the true story behind the plot, and what inspired them to go into their creative fields. They really stressed that it can take just one experience with the arts to propel a young person to pursue a natural gift and make the world a more beautiful place. Again, sorry for the horrid photography.

Next up was the auction, moderated by our local weatherman, Fritz Coleman, from NBCLA. He's jolly good fun, as he touts himself as the "weatherman of the city with no weather." Philanthropists and corporations bid an enormous sum of money for CTG's cause and won fun prizes like a chance to appear in a CTG production and scouting trips to London's West End.

Finally it was time to head to the Ahmanson Theatre for the show! We settled into our front and center balcony seats and cracked into the chocolate that had kindly been left there for us. 

The show was based on the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a singing group from WWII era Germany and their battle for success and against Nazi oppression. The music (by Barry Manilow) was brilliant and catchy - with splendid harmonic arrangement, of course. I was a bit disappointed at how the whole production played out, however. The cast was talented and the script was witty and touching, but I just thought it fell a bit lackluster with so much potential. I think perhaps the show, considering its topic, was played a bit too safe as a whole. Still, it was an entertaining night and definitely an experience I'll think of fondly.

If you're in the Los Angeles area, check out Harmony or another one of Center Theatre Group's productions in their three theatres! 

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