Raúl Esparza, Kelli O’Hara and More to Perform at Encores! Gala Tonight, 11/12

By: Nov. 12, 2012
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New York City Center will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of its Tony Award–winning Encores! series tonight, November 12 with a Gala Benefit starring Raúl Esparza and Kelli O'Hara, and featuring performers who have starred in Encores! productions over the past two decades.

The star-studded show, directed by Marc Bruni, will include performances by Sarah Uriarte Berry, Walter Bobbie, Victoria Clark, Tyne Daly, Rob Fisher, Debbie Gravitte, Jared Grimes, Judy Kaye, Rebecca Luker, Rob McClure, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Sikora and Daniel J. Watts accompanied by The Encores! Orchestra under the musical direction of Rob Berman. The benefit will help fund New York City Center's artistic and education programs.

The gala, honoring Stephanie and Fred Shuman, will begin at 6:00 pm with cocktails at City Center followed by the show at 7:00 p.m. and a post-performance dinner in The Grand Ballroom of The Plaza Hotel (58th Street at 5th Avenue). Gala co-chairs are Patricia and Jesse Lovejoy, Stacey and Eric Mindich, and Robin and Fred Seegal.

New York City Center Encores! (Artistic Director Jack Viertel and Music Director Rob Berman), celebrates the rarely heard works of America's most important composers and lyricists. Since its founding in 1994, it has presented 57 musical productions for an audience of more than half a million people. Each production is a whirlwind, with just eight days of rehearsals, one day of dress rehearsal and seven performances. The cast is backed by The Encores! Orchestra, often more than 30 players strong. Over the years, Encores! has presented the works of Harold Arlen, Burt Bacharach, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Kurt Weill and many others. The program received a special 2000 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre, as well as an Outer Critics Circle Award, Lucille Lortel Award and Jujamcyn Theater Award. Past productions have featured Christine Baranski, Kristin Chenoweth, Tyne Daly, Christine Ebersole, Sutton Foster, Anne Hathaway, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Patti LuPone, Donna McKechnie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Donna Murphy, Bebe Neuwirth, Rosie O'Donnell, Kelli O'Hara, Lynn Redgrave, Ann Reinking, Vanessa L. Williams, Charles Dutton, Nathan Lane, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Robert Morse, James Naughton, Martin Short, Jock Soto, Patrick Wilson and Jerry Zaks.

Rob Berman is entering his sixth season as music director of Encores! He has conducted 16 productions, including Merrily We Roll Along (2012), On the Town (2009), Stairway to Paradise (2007), and both the Encores! and Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow (2009).

Sarah Uriarte Berry starred in the Encores! productions of Tenderloin (2000) and The Boys from Syracuse (1997).

Walter Bobbie directed Fiorello! (1994), the first Encores! production, and was Artistic Director of the series from 1995 to 1996. Walter directed the Encores!, Broadway and international productions of Chicago (1996), winning Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. He also directed the Encores! productions of No, No, Nanette (2008), Golden Boy (2001), and Tenderloin (2000), and as an actor he starred in Face the Music (2007) and Bye Bye Birdie (2004).

Marc Bruni directed the Encores! productions of Pipe Dream (2012) and Fanny (2010) and served as Associate Director of Finian's Rainbow (2009); No, No, Nanette (2008); Applause (2008); 70, Girls, 70 (2006); and Bye Bye Birdie (2004).

Victoria Clark starred in the Encores! productions of Juno (2008), Follies (2007) and Bye Bye Birdie (2004).

Tyne Daly starred in the Encores! second-season production of Call Me Madam (1995).

Raúl Esparza starred in the Encores! production of Anyone Can Whistle (2010).

Rob Fisher was Music Director of Fiorello! (1994) and became Music Director of the series the following year, continuing through 2005. He was Music Director of 33 productions, including Lady in the Dark (1994), Promises, Promises (1997), and The Apple Tree (2005). Rob directed the Encores!, Broadway and international productions of Chicago (1996).

Christopher Fitzgerald met his wife, Jessica Stone, when the two appeared in the Encores! production of Babes in Arms (1999). Christopher starred in the Broadway production of Finian's Rainbow (2009) and in the Encores! production of Stairway to Paradise (2007).

Jared Grimes starred in the Encores! production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (2012) and in the Encores! special event Cotton Club Parade (2011), in a role he will be repeating in November.

Rob McClure starred in the Encores! production of Where's Charley? (2011).

Bebe Neuwirth starred in the Encores! productions of Chicago (1996) and Pal Joey (1995), and received a Tony Award when Chicago moved to Broadway.

Kelli O'Hara starred in the Encores! production of Bells Are Ringing (2011).

Megan Sikora appeared in the Encores! productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (2012), Fanny (2010), Applause (2008), and A Connecticut Yankee (2001).

Daniel J. Watts appeared in the Encores! special events The Wiz (2008) and Cotton Club Parade (2011), in a role he will be repeating in November.

Fred Shuman, Trustee and Chair of City Center's Executive Committee, is the Founder of The Archstone Partnerships, one of the original Fund of Hedge Funds. He currently serves on the Investment Committee of the Andover Endowment Fund, is a National Director Emeritus of Outward Bound U.S.A. and is a member of the Leadership Council of New York Stem Cell Foundation. Stephanie Shuman is a Trustee of International Center for Photography and a board member of Lincoln Center Theater. She served as President of Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, an Upper East Side homeless organization, and has been a Trustee for 25 years. The Shumans support a research lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and a research lab at Rockefeller University. They manage a private foundation that fosters cooperation amongst scientific researchers of orphan diseases. Stephanie and Fred are generous supporters of the Central Park Conservancy, and are Vice-Chairmen of the upcoming Autumn in Central Park benefit.

New York City Center (Arlene Shuler, President & CEO) has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city for nearly 70 years. It was Manhattan's first performing arts center, dedicated by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943 with a mission to make the best in music, theater and dance accessible to all audiences. Today, City Center is home to many distinguished companies, including City Center's Principal Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as American Ballet Theatre, New York City Opera, and Manhattan Theatre Club; a roster of renowned national and international visiting artists; and its own critically acclaimed and popular programs. The Tony-honored Encores! musical theater series has been hailed as "one of the very best reasons to be alive in New York." Dance has been integral to the theater's mission from the start, and dance programs, including the annual Fall for Dance Festival, remain central to City Center's identity. City Center is dedicated to providing educational opportunities to New York City students and teachers with programs such as Encores! In Schools and the Young People's Dance Series. Last year, CityCenter completed an extensive renovation to revitalize and modernize its historic theater.

Show-only tickets are $30, $50 and $115 and can be purchased at the New York City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues), through CityTix at 212-581-1212, or online at www.NYCityCenter.org. Program and artists subject to change.

Benefit Tickets are available at $5,000; $2,500; $1,500 and $500 per person. Tables of 10 are available at $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000. For additional information and reservations, call 212-763-1205 or visit www.NYCityCenter.org.