Theatre Under The Stars 50th Anniversary Season Gala Wows Attendees And Raises A Record $1.37 Million
Welcome to Theatre Under The Stars 50th Anniversary Season Gala, an incredible and intimate celebration this past Saturday, March 23rd with Broadway star Idina Menzel and more than 600 TUTS family and friends. Many guests said it was the "best gala" they had ever attended. The gorgeous event designed by Taylor DeMartino of Blooming Gallery not only turned The Post Oak Hotel grand ballroom into a supper club "under the stars" that night, but guests experienced the magic of live musical theatre while supporting a great cause. A private meet and greet with Menzel was given to top sponsors along with gifts donated by David Peck. This historic event raised more funds than any other Gala in TUTS history - $1.37 million for "Houston's Home for Musical Theatre".
The evening began with a welcome from emcee and expecting mother Samica Knight, anchor for KTRK ABC-13. She was followed by a meaningful tribute by Gala co-chairs Leticia and Steve Trauber and Cheryl and Louis Raspino who took time to honor the past chairs and presidents of the TUTS Board since 1968. Those present that night included Greg Harper, Reed Wood, Dennis Irvine, Cissy Segal Davis, David Taylor, Steve Trauber, Amy Pierce, Steve Burkett, and current chair, Randy Stilley. TUTS Artistic Director, Dan Knetchges, and Executive Director, Hillary Hart, next shared about the organization's extensive reach and impact into the community, both now and in the future.
The program included a touching video by Dena Rafte Photography/Cut To Create immediately followed by a special performance of "Seasons of Love" featuring local performers Christina Wells, Courtney Markowitz, and Marco Camacho singing alongside, Jenna Bobbora, Kelly Lamonte, Scott Fonseka, Abriel Coleman, students from TUTS Humphreys School for Musical Theatre and Abby Yadan, Zoe White, Brennan Emeka, students from The River Performing and Visual Arts Center. There was hardly a dry eye in the house! Auctioneer Jeff Smith then kicked it off with an impressive round of Paddles Up raising nearly $90,000 for TUTS, exceeding its $50,000 goal. Thanks to auction chairs Helen Shaffer and Demetra Jones, the live auction featured luxurious trips to the Tony Awards, Cabo, an Oregon winery and South Africa, with some items doubling or tripling. The silent auction boasted amazing items like a miniature Tesla and Mercedes, Sakowitz furs, designer purses, Houston Rockets suite, "wine cellar" of 50 bottles, homes in Cape Cod and Tulum, and pieces of TUTS history to take home.
The magic continued as musical theatre icon Idina Menzel (known as the voice of "Elsa" from Disney's Frozen) took the stage. She not only wowed the crowd with her hits, but involved audience members, creating an immersive theatrical experience. Three women from the audience sang an impromptu duet with Idina to a song from Rent. The interactive video proscenium wall and impressive lighting effects changed with each song. She ended her powerful set with a surprise request for students from the Humphreys School and The River to join her onstage to sing "Let It Go"!
The program ended with a heartwarming champagne toast by Mayor Sylvester Turner. The dance floor was packed well past midnight as the Georgia Bridgwater Orchestra sang happy birthday and kept the party going with incredible live music and confetti cannons.
Notable guests included the event chairs Leticia and Steve Trauber, Cheryl and Louis Raspino, Margaret Alkek Williams; civic leaders Mayor Sylvester Turner, Councilmember Karla and Tim Cisneros, Sofia Adrogue'; Houston arts leaders John and Regina Mangum, Dean and Jane Gladden, Cissy Segal Davis; TUTS Board members Lisa Foronda Harper and C. Gregory Harper, Roxann and Tim Neumann, David Peck and Michelle Phillips, June Deadrick, Amy and Rob Pierce, Jay Landa and Daniel Turner, Beth and Greg Looser, Alan and Tricia Ratliff, Helen and Jim Shaffer, Frank and Demetra Jones, Paul-David Van Atta, Sig and Patricia Cornelius, Randy and Sandy Stilley; and TUTS friends Ann and Jonathon Ayre, David Bamford and Louis Perez, Gina and Devinder Bhatia, Oscar Brown and Sarah Morgan, Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Christy and Lou Cushman, Tracy and Valerie Dietrich, Shawn and Rachel Duffy, Ernie Manouse, Mady and Ken Kades, Joanna Marks, Paul and Rita Morico, Chuck and Judy Stokes, Penny and Townes Pressler, Deborah Stavis, Ishwari and Vivek Subbiah, Demi and Ron Rand.