It was one of those moments that a gala chair just has to love — when a national celebrity jumps on stage to join the entertainment in a rousing musical duo. That would be performer and filmmaker Robert Townsend, who accompanied local favorite Yvonne Washington on stage at the Hyatt Regency Downtown during the Ensemble Theatre's annual black-tie gala.
Many in the throng of 700 were on their feet as the awards evening moved into high party gear. Earlier, Townsend spontaneously joined emcee Deborah Duncan, KHOU Channel 11 talk show host, on stage in a round of improvised comical exchanges. It was quite a night.
E ntertainment included a rousing performance of Pharrell Williams' "Happy." by the Ensemble Theatre Young Performers and Silvanus LaToison.
Townsend, with his stunning daughter Skye Townsend on his arm, was honored with the Director of the Year Award, joining in the spotlight actor Hal Williams, who received the Legacy Award, and the glam actress/singer LeToya Luckett, recipient of the Rising Star Award.
LeToya, wearing a gown designed by Jenise Gregg Couture, was involved with the Ensemble as a youth. "The Ensemble Theatre and Eileen Morris (artistic director) have been a part of my life since I was four years old," she told the gathering. "It was because of her that I discovered my passion for entertaining and a big part of the reason I’ve extended beyond my musical career into acting."
The evening also honored Jerelyn and DeFarris Gooden with the Founder's Award and the Rev. Bill Lawson family with the President's Award. Community leadership awards were presented to BP and McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy LLP.
The gala, which raised $350,000, was chaired by Laurie Vignaud and Deavra Daughtry with State Rep. Sylvester Turner serving as honorary chair. The evening's entertainment included a rousing performance of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" by the Ensemble Theatre Young Performers and Silvanus LaToison as well as a music video of the hit song performed by Ensemble staff, artists and the gala committee.
Joining the festivities were Ensemble executive director Janette Cosely, Mayor Annise Parker and Kathy Hubbard, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Elwyn Lee, City Councilman Larry Green, Audrey Lawson, Michelle and Barry Barnes, Dawnia and Darryl Willis, Melanie Lawson and John Guess Jr., Jane Page and John Crump, Michael Moore, Sharon Murphy, Merele Yarborough, Argentina James and Ben Hall.