On Aug. 8, a celebration unfolded that marked the 49th anniversary of a most respected local cultural force.
South Coast Repertory held its 34th annual gala celebrating exemplary theater for local audiences, often attracting national acclaim. Not to be overly obsessed with numbers, but SCR is on the threshold of its 50th year, which is certainly a remarkable achievement by any standard of measure.
The 2012 gala, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, was named "Setting the Stage." It took on an appropriate theatrical theme with attention to every detail.
The lovely Beth Phelps, with the infectious smile, chaired the evening of dining and dancing, brought to a crescendo thanks to the orchestra of donor John Tu and his amazing band, JT and California Dreamin'.
The SCR gala is traditionally the opening ball of the social season on the Orange Coast. Phelps and her gala committee — which included support from local philanthropists Olivia Johnson, Bette Aitken, Nadine Hall, Sophie Cripe, Pam Muzzy, Laurie Smits Staude, Linda White, Elaine Weinberg, Ardelle St. George, Ashleigh Aitken and Mimi Holcombe — created an elegant affair that raised the bar on style for the 2012-13 gala season.
Party planners created seating arrangements in the ballroom that had five round tables clustered together in four sections; it offered intimacy for the black-tie crowd as opposed to a massive ballroom with a sea of tables around a dance floor. It was almost like being in a private dining salon as guests table-hopped and chatted with their neighbors.
The floral centerpieces by Enzo were among the most spectacular ever produced for a gala dinner. Magnificent orchids of all varieties, shapes and colors sat atop tall crystal columns. A formal multicourse dinner featured a duet of filet mignon and roasted Maine lobster accompanied by Northern California mushroom ragout.
The SCR dining crowd raved over dessert, a cinnamon apple streusel topped with vanilla gelato, sea salt and caramel. Being on a low-salt, low-sugar diet, I auctioned mine off to the highest bidder at the table helping to increase the donation to the SCR fund for the evening. Kidding aside, the generosity of local patrons will net $500,000 from the evening for the SCR annual fund.
The classy Saturday night crowd included Ambassador George Argyros and his stunning wife, Julia, in a regal plum colored brocade ball gown, Robert and also "best-dressed" Nadine Hall of Emerald Bay, Jean and Tim Weiss, Bill and Carolyn Klein, Toni Berlinger, Carl Neisser, David and Barbara Cline, also very chic in an elegant royal blue taffeta gown, Larry and Sophie Cripe, Victor and Nancy Dahan, Rosalie Freedman, Lou Delmonico, Andy and Joan Fimiano, Olivia and Andrew Johnson, and Phelps with husband Tom.
Also front and center for SCR were Jim Muzzy, Gail and Ernie Doe, Mary Tu, Joanne Leatherby and Greg Bates, Dave and Linda Chou, Anne and John Wortmann, Gregson Hall escorting Michelle Ultimo, James and Peg Rollans, Richard Doyle, Jennifer Parsons, Barbara and Jack Tingley, Karen and Bill Sullins, Bryce and Kim Bordwell, Jean Platt, Gwen and Jerry Vieau and honored guests founding artistic directors of SCR, Martin Benson and David Emmes.
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.