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Photo Flash: Westport Country Playhouse Gala "An Enchanted Evening: The Music Of Richard Rodgers"

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An audience of over 500 people attended Westport Country Playhouse's annual fundraising gala, "An Enchanted Evening: The Music of Richard Rodgers," featuring special tributes to Mary Rodgers Guettel, composer, presented by Stephen Sondheim, both former Playhouse apprentices; and Elisabeth Morten, Playhouse board of trustees chairman, presented by Anne Keefe and JoAnne Woodward, former Playhouse artistic directors, on Monday evening, November 2.

"On behalf of The Playhouse staff and board, the fabulous guest artists who generously donated their time and talents, and those whose energy and resources helped every step of the way, I'm proud to say that our gala was a great success," said Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director. "And of course, all who attended made this 2009 gala the truly special event that it was. From the tribute to Mary Rodgers Guettel to the star-studded celebration of the music of Richard Rodgers to a gorgeous dinner afterward, Westport Country Playhouse was a wonderfully warm place to be on a cold November evening.

"It's also important to note that we will be allocating a portion of the proceeds to support The Playhouse's Woodward Internship and Apprentice Program, thereby insuring that this vital educational initiative, from which Mrs. Rodgers Guettel got her own start in the theater, continues to nurture the talented artists of tomorrow," Lamos added. The Woodward Internship and Apprentice Program was recently named in recognition of Ms. Woodward's interest in training the next generation of theater artists. The Playhouse's intern and apprentice program has been in existence since 1946.

A special tribute was made to Ms. Rodgers Guettel, who began her theatrical career as a Playhouse apprentice in 1950, and went on to write the music for the Broadway hit, "Once Upon a Mattress." She is the daughter of composer Richard Rodgers. Stephen Sondheim, who also was in the 1950 Playhouse apprentice class, was present to honor Ms. Rodgers Guettel.

Ms. Rodgers Guettel stated of her Playhouse apprenticeship, "It was the summer that gave me a reason to be alive. Before then, I had no aim, no group---I found a community in the apprentices." She thanked the audience for their support of The Playhouse intern and apprentice program that continues to help young people find their direction and future in the theater world.

Elisabeth Morten was honored by former Playhouse artistic directors Anne Keefe and JoAnne Woodward for spearheading The Playhouse's successful, multi-million dollar renovation in 2005. She has served as chairman and president of The Playhouse board of trustees since 1999, having joined the board in 1996. Ms. Morten is a Tony Award voter and theatrical producer.

Ms. Morten thanked the seven other "visionary" board members who launched The Playhouse's revitalization and renovation on January 1, 2000: Walter Bergen, Bill Haber, Catherine Herman, Anne Keefe, Ann Sheffer, Steve Wolff and JoAnne Woodward. "Without them, Westport Country Playhouse would no longer be here," she said. "We look forward to the culmination of our efforts with the new leadership of Mark Lamos and Michael Ross, our board, staff, donors and ticket buyers."

A musical performance, entitled "An Enchanted Evening---The Music of Richard Rodgers," featured Broadway stars Malcolm Gets, Tony and Drama Desk Awards nominee and Obie Award winner; Judy Kuhn, nominated for three Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards; James Naughton, Tony Award winner for "Chicago" and "City of Angels"; Kelli O'Hara, Tony Award nominee for "South Pacific," "The Pajama Game" and "The Light in the Piazza"; Steven Pasquale, who created the role of Fabrizio in Adam Guettel's "The Light in the Piazza" and appears on FX's "Rescue Me"; Loretta Ables Sayre, Tony Award nominee and Theatre World Award winner for her role as Bloody Mary in "South Pacific"; and Karen Ziemba, Tony Award winner for "Contact." The performance was produced by Kevin Duncan, directed by Christopher Gattelli, with music direction by Adam Ben-David and Mary-Mitchell Campbell.

Gala chairs were Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, and Cindy and John Vaccaro. Honorary chairs were Anne Keefe and JoAnne Woodward, former Playhouse artistic directors.
About The Playhouse

Westport Country Playhouse, a not-for-profit theater, serves as a treasured home for the performing arts and is a cultural landmark for Connecticut. Under the artistic direction of Mark Lamos and management direction of Michael Ross, The Playhouse creates quality productions of new and classic plays that enlighten, enrich and engage a diverse community of theater lovers, artists and students. The Playhouse's rich history dates back to 1931, when New York theatre producer Lawrence Langner created a Broadway-quality stage within an 1830s tannery. The Playhouse quickly became an established stop on the New England "straw hat circuit" of summer stock theatres. Now celebrating its 79th season, Westport Country Playhouse has produced more than 700 plays, 36 of which later transferred to Broadway, most recently the world premiere of "Thurgood" and a revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" with Paul Newman, and in earlier years "Come Back, Little Sheba" with Shirley Booth, "The Trip to Bountiful" with Lillian Gish, and "Butterflies Are Free" with Keir Dullea and Blythe Danner. For its artistic excellence, The Playhouse received a 2005 Governor's Arts Award and a 2000 "Connecticut Treasure" recognition. It was also designated as an Official Project of Save America's Treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is entered on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places. Following a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2005, The Playhouse transformed into a year-round, state-of-the-art producing theater, which has preserved its original charm and character. In addition to a full season of theatrical productions, The Playhouse serves as a community resource, presenting educational programming and workshops; a children's theater series; symposiums; music; films; and readings. www.westportplayhouse.org

Photo credit: Top six photos by Jennifer Manna
Bottom photo by Kathleen O'Rourke

 

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