Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lippa and More Attended 'And the Tony Award Goes To…Celebrating TheatreWorks at 50'

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Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lippa and More Attended 'And the Tony Award Goes To…Celebrating TheatreWorks at 50'
Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-winning composer Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked," "Pippin," Disney's "Pocahontas", DreamWorks's "The Prince of Egypt") performed "For Good" from Wicked at "And the Tony Award Goes to...Celebrating TheatreWorks at 50," paying tribute to TheatreWorks Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley.

Stars of stage and screen, playwrights, composers, and supporters of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley came together Saturday, November 2, 2019 to celebrate the acclaimed regional theatre at And the Tony Award Goes To...Celebrating TheatreWorks at 50, a once-in-a-lifetime event honoring the company's half-century and its 2019 Regional Theatre Tony® Award. Some 480 guests attended extraordinary event which raised nearly $800,000 for TheatreWorks marking it the most attended and most successful fundraiser in the company's history. Guests appropriately gathered in the heart of Silicon Valley at Mountain View's Computer History Museum for cocktails, dinner, and a lively auction, then proceeded to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, where a stellar array of TheatreWorks alumni returned to pay tribute to its history through words and music.

Among the stars from TheatreWorks's vast galaxy of performers, composers, lyricists, and playwrights who appeared at the once-in-a-lifetime event was Academy, Grammy, and Tony Award winning-composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) whose latest musical The Prince of Egypt made its world premiere at TheatreWorks last season and now heads for its West End debut in February. Schwartz brought down the house when he seated himself at the grand piano centerstage to sing his hit "For Good" from Wicked, paying tribute to TheatreWorks Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley. Also on hand were Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and American Theatre Wing chair David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Yellow Face, Aida, Soft Power), and Drama Desk and Emmy Award winner, multiple Tony nominee Željko Ivanek (Damages, Madam Secretary, Cloud Nine, The Pillowman), who offered heartfelt remarks highlighting their long relationships with TheatreWorks. Tony nominated Broadway composer Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party, The Addams Family, Big Fish) also received an ovation as he performed selections from his musicals developed at TheatreWorks. Broadway composer Paul Gordon, another Tony nominee (Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs, Jane Austen's EMMA, Being Earnest) who has debuted several hit productions at TheatreWorks, introduced a song from the upcoming holiday production of his Pride and Prejudice-which will mark TheatreWorks's 70th world premiere-performed by its leading lady, Mary Mattison. Composer Valerie Vigoda of GrooveLily accompanied herself on the electric violin as she sang the unforgettable "Snow Song: It's Coming Down" from their holiday hit Striking 12¸ and composer Michael Silversher heard songs from his early TheatreWorks original musicals performed by the energetic cast. Award-winning Bay Area composer/playwright Min Kahng introduced a stunning rendition of "Remarkable" from his TheatreWorks-premiered smash hit The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga performed by actor/singer Nick Nakashima. Also on hand was Lauren Gunderson (Silent Sky, Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley), currently recognized as America's most-produced playwright, whose The Book of Will is slated to be the final show directed by Kelley while at the helm of the company he founded.

Stars who could not be there in person sent video greetings from their Broadway dressing rooms, including Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (Hamilton)¸ Danny Burstein (Moulin Rouge), Francis Jue (Soft Power), and Alex Brightman (Beetlejuice), all recounting roles they had played at TheatreWorks in their early careers and congratulating the company on its anniversary. Other video greetings were delivered from New York by composer David Bryan, playwright Joe DiPietro, and actress Montego Glover from "Best Musical" Tony-winner Memphis which originated at TheatreWorks, as well as from Italy by pianist/performer Hershey Felder and from Seattle by GrooveLily composer Brendan Milburn.

Among the guests enjoying the festivities were members of the "Celebration 50" committee who spent countless hours bringing the spectacular event to life. Co-chaired by Cindi Sears of Portola Valley, Gayla Lorthridge Wood of Los Altos Hills, and Nancy Ginsburg Stern of Palo Alto, committee members included Julie Kaufman of Atherton; Cabell Chinnis and Anne Hambly of Los Altos; Lynn Szekely-Goode of Los Altos Hills; Barbara Shapiro of Menlo Park; Carla Befera and Holly Ward of Palo Alto; and Judy Heyboer of San Francisco.

Notable local politicos at the dinner and show included U.S. Congressmember Anna Eshoo, Palo Alto City Councilmembers Liz Kniss and Allison Cormack, Mountain View Councilmember Lucas Ramirez, and County Supervisor Joe Simitian (who as a youth stage-managed TheatreWorks's first production). Arts leaders paying tribute included incoming Opera San Jose General Director Khori Dastoor and Montalvo Arts Center Executive Director Angela McConnell.

Former TheatreWorks Managing Directors Randy Adams, now a Broadway producer of hits including "Best Musical" Tony winners Come From Away and Memphis, and J. Todd Harris, now a film (Bottle Shock, The Kids Are All Right) and Broadway (Heathers: The Musical, American Psycho) producer, also returned to pay their respects, joining TheatreWorks's current Executive Director Phil Santora.

In addition to the committee members, TheatreWorks board members celebrating the occasion included: Roy Johnson (Chair), Patricia Bresee, Denise Brosseau, Sarah Donaldson, Susan Fairbrook, Peggy Woodford Forbes, Matt Fuller, Ciro Giammona, Mark Greenstein, Rose Hau, Ron Hayden, Charlotte Jacobs, Derry Kabcenell, Michael Kahn, Donald Matsuda, Ellice Papp, Kristina Vetter, Holly Ward, and Jane Weston.

Sponsors of the event included J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Gleim The Jeweler (which also lent the brilliant baubles worn by committee members), Acme Technology, Inc., ChaseVP Printing, Fenwick & West LLP, Munday & Collins AV, San Francisco Chronicle, The Sobrato Family Foundation, and Wells Fargo. The evening's sparkling wine sponsors were Patrizia McCarthy and Truman Reynolds.

The black-tie evening started at The Computer History Museum with a cocktail and champagne reception, followed by an exceptional gourmet three-course dinner by Le Papillon with fine wine pairings by J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. During dinner, auctioneer Gary Lorentzen took the stage to lead a raffle featuring gorgeous jewels from Gleim The Jewelers and other spectacular prizes. Lorentzen then hosted a spirited live auction of unforgettable trips, and behind-the-scenes theatre experiences. The auction's highly-desirable items included a hand-drawn Jules Feiffer original cartoon of Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley; tickets to the gala 2020 opening of The Prince of Egypt in London's West End; a one-of-a-kind basket of celebrity doodles, drawn and signed by artists from TheatreWorks's galaxy of Tony, Grammy, and Emmy-winning stars; and a private music salon with Broadway composer Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party, The Addams Family, Big Fish), among other adventures. Bidding was fierce for Broadway house seats plus backstage tours by Danny Burstein of Moulin Rouge and Alex Brightman of Beetlejuice, both alumni of the TheatreWorks stage, a dream package which sold for a whopping $19,000.

Then the festivities moved to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts where guests were treated to The Company We Kept, a one-night-only celebration concert featuring stars from TheatreWorks's past and present. Directed by Robert Kelley, the revue presented songs from TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 50-year history, highlighting the company's ground-breaking work as an incubator for new musicals and plays. Shows highlighted included The Prince of Egypt, Memphis, The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga, Jane Austen's EMMA and A Little Princess, as well as early original hits Dreameaters, Odd Bodkins, Galileo, and others. TheatreWorks veteran performer Michelle E. Jordan brought the crowd to their feet with her powerful rendition of "I am Changing" from Dreamgirls, seen at TheatreWorks in 1988, and performers Simone Cox and Linda Piccone reprised songs from the company's 1980 hit Working.

The show's ensemble of performers also included Noel Anthony, Martin Rojas Dietrich, Lila Gold, Billy Hutton, Ruth Keith, Travis Leland, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Nick Nakashima, Sharon Rietkerk, Courtney Stokes, Salisha Thomas, and Melissa WolfKlain.

Celebrating its 50th Anniversary Season, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is the recipient of the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award. With over 100,000 patrons per year, the Palo Alto-based theatre company has captured a national reputation for artistic innovation and integrity, often presenting Bay Area theatregoers with their first look at acclaimed musicals, comedies, and dramas, directed by award-winning local and guest directors, and performed by professional actors cast locally and from across the country.

Media sponsor for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 2019/2020 season is the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGATE.

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

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