Better Than Laughing Gas

Jay Leno cracks 'em up at Alley Theatre's $1 million gala held on the floor of NRG stadium

Jay Leno cracks 'em up at Alley Theatre's $1 million gala inside NRG

News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jay Leno
Jay Leno on stage at NRG Stadium for Alley Theatre Gala. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Margaret Williams, Jay Leno, Mady and Ken Kades
Honoree Margaret Alkek Williams, from left, Jay Leno with chairs Mady and Ken Kades. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015,Maryanne McKenzie, Simon Dawson
Maryanne McKenzie and Simon Dawson. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Gracie and Bob Cavnar
Gracie and Bob Cavnar. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, scenery
NRG Stadium was never before so dressed up as for the Alley gala. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Gregory Boyd, Josie de Guzman
Gregory Boyd and Josie de Guzman. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Sue and Lester Smith
Sue and Lester Smith. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Jane and Dean Gladden
Jane and Dean Gladden. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015,  Rob & Julie Goytia, Carrie & John Vallone
Rob and Julie Goytia, from left, and Carrie and John Vallone. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jana and Scotty Arnoldy
Jana and Scotty Arnoldy.  Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Deana and Larry Blackburn
Larry and Deana Blackburn. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015,  Rachel Kades, Matt & Lil Kades
Rachel Kades, from left, and Matt and Lil Kades. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Andrew Cordes, Brian Teichman
Andrew Cordes, left, and Brian Teichman. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jay Leno
Jay Leno. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Jennifer & Alex Butkevich
Jennifer and Alex Butkevich. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jay Leno
Race cars from the Radical Texas auction item. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, scenery
NRG Stadium as black-tie gala venue, football field transformed. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, scenery
The wine auction selection in an elaborate setting on stadium floor. Photo by Priscilla Dickson
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jay Leno
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Margaret Williams, Jay Leno, Mady and Ken Kades
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015,Maryanne McKenzie, Simon Dawson
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Gracie and Bob Cavnar
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, scenery
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Gregory Boyd, Josie de Guzman
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Sue and Lester Smith
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Jane and Dean Gladden
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015,  Rob & Julie Goytia, Carrie & John Vallone
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jana and Scotty Arnoldy
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Deana and Larry Blackburn
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015,  Rachel Kades, Matt & Lil Kades
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Andrew Cordes, Brian Teichman
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jay Leno
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, Jennifer & Alex Butkevich
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015 Jay Leno
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, scenery
News, Shelby, Alley gala, May 2015, scenery

"Whose idea was this anyway?" Jay Leno cracked wise as he attempted to summon intimate comedy club ambience in the vast environs of NRG Stadium. While the space might have been less than ideal for entertainment, it proved to be a commendable canvas for the Alley Theatre's "Much Ado About the Alley" gala. 

"This is the worst place ever for a standup comedian," Leno quipped as he viewed the immense party setting adding, "We're about 64,000 people short." Yet, the 600 black-tie attired guests who did attend the gala in this most unusual setting were enchanted by the elaborate decor that channeled "merry olde" England. The fact that the event raised more than $1 million further validated the location.

Chairs Mady and Ken Kades had envisioned the Shakespearean evening decorated in reds and gold, the theme grandly interpreted by Richard Flowers and The Events Co. Bravos for the beautiful setting could be heard throughout the party scene, which occupied about half of the Houston Texans playing field. Skylights were blacked out and the ceiling was dark with all light work focusing on the party action.

The space featured lengthy banquet style tables, round tables and even tables of four, each laden with beautiful bouquets of garden flowers some with a touch of fruits and vegetables, each arrangement different. The party perimeter was defined by red velvet draping and murals of the 15th century Unicorn Tapestries.

Amid the lavish setting, guests raised their champagne glasses to the evening's honoree, Margaret Alkek Williams, the toast led by Alley managing director Dean Gladden. The two were joined in the program on stage by Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd and emcee Deborah Duncan. From there David Caceres and his orchestra provided dinner music until Leno took the stage. Also receiving special recognition on this night was Alley patron Beth Madison, entertainment chair who made Leno's appearance possible.

Dinner, by the way, was one of Jackson and Co.'s best in recent memory. The four courses were comprised of a miniature vegetable terrine, poached Arctic char, a brace of stuffed quail and a pear royale for dessert.

Despite the challenges of the space, Leno had fans laughing. Among them were Sue and Lester Smith, Helene and Dror Zadok, Jana and Scotty Arnoldy, Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Laura Bellows and Jack Pendergrast, Josie de Guzman, Jane Gladden, Trini Mendenhall, Andrew Cordes and Brian Teichman, Karla and Greg Vesey and Kristi and John Schiller.

Following his presentation Leno moved to the Houston Texans owner's suite for a brief VIP meet-and-greet. Down on the stadium floor (cement, grass palettes removed), the party continued as the young professionals poured in for the late-night bash chaired by Michelle Phillips and David Peck, David Bamford and Luis Bamford-Perez.