From the moment guests stepped out of their cars, they needed to be ready for their close-ups as a photographer captured the red carpet arrivals at the 2017 Theatre Under The Stars Gala at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The theme was “One Night Only,” one of the signature songs of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, which opens next month and inspired the night.
The evening started with cocktails and appetizers in Sarofim Hall, offering the perfect opportunity to do some shopping at a silent and live auction. Everything from autographed sports memorabilia to trips to Saint Lucia, Paris and even Belize was up for grabs.
For those who wanted to get in on the action without placing a bid, $175 would get you a mystery bag from Elaine Turner. Each bag had a purse or clutch inside ranging from $150 to $400 in value. Across the room, Kendra Scott also had a mystery pull for a fixed price of $60.
The lights soon flashed in the lobby signaling the start of the show and the moment for each guest to take their turn in the spotlight. That’s because instead of watching the stage, they were on it. Dinner was served onstage with an entrée of filet mignon in a brandy mushroom sauce, petite carrots glazed with ginger and citrus and vine tomatoes filled with creamed baby spinach, catered by Culinaire.
And if you’d always wanted to feel like a Broadway star, this was your chance. The word “Dreams” hung from the ceiling, a nod to the theme, while décor bathed in purple and centerpieces that looked like chandeliers accented the tables — all created by The Perfect Touch.
You didn’t even have to be in show business to have your own record. CDs with “One Night Only” on the cover were at the seats along with microphones and disco balls. Technically, the CDs were handmade chocolate from The Chocolate Bar and the microphones and disco balls were cookies, but what’s better than something you can eat?
Houston's Dreamgirl honored
The gala honored Margaret Alkek Williams for her contributions to the arts community in Houston. True to the glitz of the night, Williams sparkled in a purple sequined gown as she accepted her award from TUTS board chair Amy Pierce. “It means the world to have Margaret's support,” Pierce said. “Her sincere generosity has enabled our arts community to grow and succeed beyond what we thought possible, for arts programming to reach students who desperately need it and most importantly, she is mentoring the next generation to foster a love for the arts.”
But Houstonians weren’t the only ones recognizing Williams. Original Dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph, who played the role of Deena Jones on Broadway in 1981, delivered a recorded message to her since she couldn’t be there in person (she’s currently starring in Wicked on Broadway). She told Williams the city is fortunate to have her. “No wonder you are dubbed Houston’s Dreamgirl!,” Ralph said.
The gold curtain later opened to reveal the cast of Dreamgirls, who performed numbers from the musical, including “Family,” “When I First Saw You,” “One Night Only,” and of course, the title song, “Dreamgirls.” Zonya Love, who stars as Effie White, brought the house down with “I Am Changing.” Her powerful vocals and range earned her a standing ovation, and I’m pretty sure had we been in church, a few ‘Amens.’ Yes, she was that good.
Seen in the crowd were TUTS executive director Hillary Hart, gala chairs Becky and Bart McAndrews and Paul-David Van Atta, who were thrilled at the nearly $700,000 raised at the gala, Deborah Duncan, Faith and Lee Majors, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Jerry Ann and Victor Costa, Sandy and Randy Stilley, Rob Pierce, Dreamgirls director and TUTS artistic advisor Sheldon Epps, Pierce Bush and Sarabeth Morgan, Penny and Paul Loyd, Alicia Smith Maguire, Frank and Demetra Jones, Nick Tran and Vaalerie Tran, Jim Daniel, Steve and Leticia Trauber, Jay Landa and Daniel Turner, John Nau, Roxann and Tim Neumann, and Roselle and Dennis Baldwin.
After party continues
By the time the gala ended, the lobby of Sarofim Hall had undergone its own glamorous makeover as the site of the “Grand Finale” after party. The tables were replaced by a black and white tiled dance floor and a dessert bar, courtesy of Culinaire Catering, now lined the wall with towers of dreamsicle chiffon trifles, red velvet mini cupcakes, gold leaf brownies, banana puddings and other treats.
Chaired by David Peck and Hector Villarreal, the after party was a new feature this year. Guests could also sweeten their evening with fresh purple cotton candy, made in another corner of the room, or could immortalize their trip back to the '60s and '70s by snapping a picture at the photo booth, complete with signs that read “Disco Fever” and “Can You Dig It?”
But you can’t have an after party without music and anyone looking to sweat out that disco fever with some dancing could certainly do it thanks to the Richard Brown Orchestra breaking down the chart-topping hits of the era. “Rescue Me,” “Disco Inferno,” and “Car Wash” were on the playlist, along with “Brick House.”
And leave it to the cast of Dreamgirls to really get the party started by doing the electric slide. Guests flooded the dance floor as the orchestra transitioned to “Proud Mary.” It didn’t take long for everyone to start rollin’ on the river as if they were Miss Tina herself.
While the event played up glamour and a retro vibe, the focus was on raising $25,000 for TUTS’ arts and education programs, which Dreamgirls cast member Thomas Hobson (Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the musical), pointed out, doesn’t go out of style, no matter what decade we’re in.
“It’s always great to see communities that understand how important art is and understand how important it is especially for young people to have venues where they can see themselves and have great experiences,” Hobson said.
The Theatre Under the Stars production Dreamgirls runs April 4-16 at the Hobby Center. For more information, visit the TUTS website.