A sold-out audience of over 550 people attended the annual benefit, 'Footlights and Film: A Celebration of the Great Musicals from Stage and Screen,' hosted by Julia Roberts and featuring a special tribute to Angela Lansbury presented by Bernadette Peters, at Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, CT (Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe, artistic directors, Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, managing director) on Monday evening, September 15.
The fundraiser grossed $1,407,610, including revenue from tickets, donations and silent auctions. Proceeds, still to be determined, will further artistic and educational programming at Westport Country Playhouse, now open year-round.
Performing musical numbers from Broadway and film were Laura Benanti ('Gypsy'), Tituss Burgess ('The Little Mermaid'), Kerry Butler ('Xanadu'), Raul Esparza ('Company'), Gavin Lee ('Mary Poppins'), Nedra McClyde ('The Actors Rap'), Julia Murney ('Wicked'), Steven Pasquale ('The Light in the Piazza'), Q. Smith ('Les Misérables') and Aurelia Williams ('All Shook Up').
Suzanne and Bob Wright were honored for their many contributions to the Playhouse with an award presented by Ralph Lauren, who said the Wrights "are so dedicated to so many good things that they are amazing."
For her dedication to the performing arts, Angela Lansbury was presented with a special tribute by Bernadette Peters. Ms. Lansbury said, "I never played Westport Country Playhouse. I wasn't a big enough star! If I don't perform one small thing on this stage tonight, I'll feel I've missed the opportunity of a lifetime." She enthralled the audience with "Not While I'm Around" by Stephen Sondheim from "Sweeney Todd."
Gala chairs were Westporters Laurie Lister and Judd Burstein, and Sharon Sullivan and Jeff Kindler. Honorary chairs were Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Director of 'Footlights and Film' was Joe Calarco; musical direction by Mary Mitchell Campbell; choreography by Tim Federle.
The evening's guests included Kate and Bob Devlin, James Earl Jones and Cecilia Hart, Phyllis and David Komansky, Marilyn and Arthur Levitt, Lorrie and Jim Nantz, Joan and Joel Smilow, Harvey Weinstein and Jane and Brian Williams.
"With ticket revenue comprising less than 50% of our annual budget, the success of this benefit is crucial to additional funding," said Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, Playhouse managing director. "We look to community support to safeguard the Playhouse's artistic and financial future."
Celebrating its 78th season, the venerable Westport Country Playhouse (Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe, artistic directors; Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, managing director) is creating innovative new works and dynamic revivals. The Playhouse has produced more than 700 plays, 36 of which later transferred to Broadway including 'Come Back, Little Sheba' with Shirley Booth; 'The Trip to Bountiful' with Lillian Gish; 'Butterflies Are Free' with Keir Dullea and Blythe Danner; 'Absurd Person Singular' with Sandy Dennis, Geraldine Page and Tony Roberts; and 'Our Town' with Paul Newman. The list of actors, directors, and other theatre artists who have worked and continue to perform on the Playhouse's legendary stage reads like a "Who's Who" of the American theatre. Following a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2005, the Playhouse now produces year-round, welcoming 85,000 audience members annually. In addition to a full season of theatrical productions, the Playhouse presents educational programming and workshops; a children's theatre series; symposiums; music; films; and readings of short fiction, classical works and new plays. Westport Country Playhouse serves as a treasured home for the theatrical arts, its audiences and its artists. For the State of Connecticut, it is a true cultural landmark. For Westport Country Playhouse information, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport, or visit www.westportplayhouse.org. The Playhouse is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.
BWW Hi-Res Gallery - Original Version
Seated, from left, Angela Lansbury, honoree; Joanne Woodward, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director. Standing, from left, Suzanne and Bob Wright, honorees; Jeffrey Kindler and Sharon Sullivan, gala co-chairs; Bernadette Peters, presenter of a tribute to Angela Lansbury; Julia Roberts, gala host; Anne Keefe, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director; Laurie Lister, gala co-chair; Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, Playhouse managing director; Judd Burstein, gala co-chair.
From left, Joanne Woodward, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director, with Julia Roberts, gala host.
Bernadette Peters, presenter of a tribute to Angela Lansbury, singing "With So Little to Be Sure Of" on the historic Westport Country Playhouse stage.
Angela Lansbury, honoree, sang "Not While I'm Around" by Stephen Sondheim from "Sweeney Todd" at Westport Country Playhouse's annual gala on September 15.
Suzanne and Bob Wright were honored for their many contributions to Westport Country Playhouse on Monday, September 15.
From left, Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, Westport Country Playhouse managing director, greets guests James Earl Jones and Cecilia Hart, who have performed at the Playhouse, Jones in "Thurgood" (2006) and Hart in "Relatively Speaking" (2007) and "Time of My Life" (2008).
From left, guests at Westport Country Playhouse gala Jane Williams, Dr. Jay Meislich and Brian Williams, host of "NBC Nightly News."