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This year’s Festival of Arts, celebrating its 80th anniversary, drew a packed house to the Acura Celebrity Event, Concert and Pageant at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts. The concert for 3,000 fans showcased five-time Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe award-winner Christopher Cross, who performed hit after hit for the appreciative crowd. My goddaughter and niece didn’t know his name, but they knew his music once he started singing – “Sailing,” “Ride Like the Wind,” “Never Be the Same,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” and many more.

Walking around the festival grounds and viewing the juried art in many mediums by the scores of talented artists is always a treat. Artist Anthony Salvo told me his series of food paintings was inspired by his mother’s apple pie growing up. I must admit, looking at those wonderful paintings of banana splits, chocolate fudge sundaes, chocolate cake, and cherry and apple pies made my mouth water! Another highlight was Adam Neeley’s stunning jewelry, especially his amethyst-diamond necklace set in platinum.

Once inside the Irvine Bowl for the 79th Pageant of the Masters presentation, we were welcomed by Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, who said she and her daughter Eulala had attended the Pageant last year and were amazed by the production. So much so that Harden came back to host and her daughter appeared as Queen Isabella in Cesare Detti’s presentation of “Galileo at the Court of Isabella,” 1878.

Speaking of celebrities, there were a cadre of celebrity guests, including Olympic volleyball gold medal winner Annika Dries from Laguna Beach (she was wearing her gold medal with great pride), Richard Karn, Barry Bostwick, Seamus Dever, Robert David Hall, Al Joyner, Hal Linden, Christopher Knight, Jerry Mathers, Gloria Allred, and Donna Mills.

I always enjoy the Pageant, but this year’s production was a standout, showcasing the theme, “The Genius.” Director Diane Challis Davy, using a cast and crew of 500 volunteers, recreated “living pictures” from the works of geniuses such as Vermeer, Rubens, Homer, Bernini, Michelangelo, Rodin, Seurat, van Gogh, and ending, of course, with da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” always a crowd pleaser. I particularly enjoyed the grouping of Normal Rockwell paintings. His tongue-in-cheek take on life is always a delight. The end of Act I was great fun, as Griffith Observatory’s murals were presented, along with the observatory’s Astronomers Monument, created by L. Archibald Garner in 1934 on the observatory grounds. As the lights faded, balloons representing the planets appeared in the night sky above and to the left of the stage. It was very dramatic and effective. Two other works stood out for me. Velazquez’s “Las Meninas,” or the Family of Philip IV, painted in 1656, was quite wonderful. Having seen the original in Madrid at The Prado made it even more meaningful. The mystery for me with Rodin’s “Eternal Springtime” sculpture of two naked lovers embracing was how they didn’t move a muscle during the entire presentation. And, believe me, they were in a contorted pose! I guess that’s what makes the Pageant so spectacular – the mystery!

Next year is the Pageant’s 80th anniversary, and I am sure Ms. Davy already has the theme well thought out. The mystery continues…

The evening, a fundraiser for future arts programming and building fund improvements for the facilities, garnered an estimated net proceeds of $110,000.

Photos: Angela Weiss/Getty Images; Patrick Rogers/Patrick Rogers Studios