"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.