Over The Rainbow

A Yellow Brick Road to serious cash: Oz gala sets fundraising record, delights with whirlwind whimsy

A Yellow Brick Road to serious cash: Oz gala sets fundraising record

Willie and Linda Chiang at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Willie and Linda Chiang. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
June Christensen, left, and Melanie Gray at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
June Christensen, left, and Melanie Gray. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
The decor at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Rebekah Johnson created the Somewhere Over the Rainbow decor. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Scott and C.C. Ensell at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Scott and C.C. Ensell into the Wizard of Oz spirit. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Stan Neely and Robyn Vermeil at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Stan Neely and Robyn Vermeil. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Tim and Elizabeth Vail at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Tim and Elizabeth Vail. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
The venue and crowd at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
A view of Wortham Theater Center's Grand Foyer from above. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Robert Smith and Karen Turner Smith at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Robert Smith and Karen Turner Smith. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Paul and Katherine Murphy, from left, and Liz and Tom Glanville at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Paul and Katherine Murphy, left, with Liz and Tom Glanville. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Liz Zaruba and Bob Devlin at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Liz Zaruba and Bob Devlin. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Kirby and Stephanie Shanks at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Kirby and Stephanie Shanks. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Kevin Black, left, and Tony Bradfield at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Tenenbaum & Co. proprietors Kevin Black, left, and Tony Bradfield. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Elizabeth Vail, from left, Stephanie Shanks, NAME, Kathryn Smith and Robyn Vermeil at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Elizabeth Vail, from left, Stephanie Shanks, Angie Hollaway, Kathryn Smith and Robyn Vermeil. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Jonathan and Amy Homeyer at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Jonathan and Amy Homeyer. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Jim and Beverly Postl at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Jim and Beverly Postl. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Doreen and Victor Bhatt at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Doreen and Victor Bhatt. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Christina Sacco and Brandon Myer at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Christina Sacco and Brandon Myer. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Barbie and Bruce Ross at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Barbie and Bruce Ross. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Allyson Chiang and Chris Banket at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Allyson Chiang and Chris Banket. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Willie and Linda Chiang at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
June Christensen, left, and Melanie Gray at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
The decor at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Scott and C.C. Ensell at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Stan Neely and Robyn Vermeil at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Tim and Elizabeth Vail at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
The venue and crowd at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Robert Smith and Karen Turner Smith at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Paul and Katherine Murphy, from left, and Liz and Tom Glanville at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Liz Zaruba and Bob Devlin at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Kirby and Stephanie Shanks at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Kevin Black, left, and Tony Bradfield at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Elizabeth Vail, from left, Stephanie Shanks, NAME, Kathryn Smith and Robyn Vermeil at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Jonathan and Amy Homeyer at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Jim and Beverly Postl at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Doreen and Victor Bhatt at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Christina Sacco and Brandon Myer at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Barbie and Bruce Ross at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015
Allyson Chiang and Chris Banket at the Houston SPA Society for the Performing Arts Gala March 2015

All it took was a yellow brick road, the wizardry of Willie Chiang and the fairy godmother generosity of Occidental Petroleum to take the Society for the Performing Arts gala on a whirlwind ride that ended in the land of green. The Oz-infused evening brought in record greenbacks to the tune of $575,000.

Other familiar tunes were part of the black-tie gala program in the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center where vocalist Hilary Kole, fresh from Friday night's performance at Jones Hall as part of the SPA series, entertained with pieces from her show, "Over the Rainbow: A Musical Tribute to the Artistry of Judy Garland."

Fittingly, the gala was themed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and, yes, that was one of the many Judy Garland favorites that she performed.

Chang and his wife, Linda, chaired the successful evening that played out amid an Oz-inspired tableau courtesy of Bergner & Johnson's Rebekah Johnson.

The evening honored Occidental Petroleum, which recently relocated its national headquarters from Los Angeles to Houston, and jumped into the philanthropic fray by ponying up generous dollars on this evening for SPA programs.

Adding to the hefty coffers were auction chairs Bruce Padilla, Karen Turner Smith and Monica Ziemba and auctioneer Jeff Smith.

Among the 550 guests sitting down for the Jackson and Co. dinner were SPA executive director June Christensen, Doreen and Victor Bhatt, Melanie Gray, Barbie and Bruce Ross, Katherine and Paul Murphy, Liz and Tom Glanville, Nancy and Chuck Davidson, Liz Zaruba, Bob Devlin and Amy and Jonathan Homeyer.