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Leave it to the folks at South Coast Repertory to create a festive, fun theme for their annual gala ball, and this year’s was no exception. Guests attending its 34th “Setting the Stage” one-night-only “production,” held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, were the stars of the show. Entering a bustling ‘backstage’ area through the ‘stage door’ brought them into contact with SCR’s Artistic Director Marc Masterson and his co-CEO and Managing Director Paula Tomei. Theatrical artisans were ready to check their hair and makeup, adjust their costumes, test sound and lights, and possibly even go over their lines. Greeting other ‘cast members’ while sipping the evening’s signature drink, Stage Door Johnnie, in the midst of set and costume renderings and photos of artists proved great fun before the traditional “Fifteen minutes to places!” was announced, and they made their way into the ballroom for the center stage production.

I must admit, the ‘stage’ was stunning! Tables alternately covered in aubergine and chartreuse silk covers were centered by four foot pedestaled bowls filled with profusions of pink orchids, green hydrangeas and cascading white orchids. Overhead, design pieces sprinkled with lights featuring theatrical props from former SCR productions caught the eye as well as a stage to the left showcasing SCR-costumed mannequins.

Board of Trustees Vice President Sophie Cripe welcomed the ‘cast’ and lauded the culmination of SCR’s first season with Masterson and Tomei, its new leadership, in place. Next, the ‘leading lady’ in charge of the gala, Beth Phelps, was thanked with the traditional opening night bouquet, whereupon she introduced and thanked her 46-member committee. Singling out her executive committee, she introduced Ashleigh Aitken, Bette Aitken, Sophie Cripe, Nadine Hall, Mimi Holcombe, Olivia Johnson, Pam Muzzy, Laurie Smits Staude, Ardelle St. Geroge, Elaine Weinberg, and Linda White.

Following a delectable dinner, the ‘cast party’ commenced, with the music of SCR donor John Tu’s big band, J.T. and California Dreamin,’ taking center stage. Tu, the band’s drummer, always showcases famous entertainer look-and-sound-a-likes in his shows, with the Blues Brothers and Jersey Boys featured this time round. Shades of Dan Aykroyd and John Balushi singing “I’m a Soul Man” brought down the house, and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” from the Jersey Boys lit up the dance floor. Partygoers could meet in the ‘Green Room’ for a chocolate break provided by G. Salt Gourmet between songs, if they so desired.

All agreed the stage was set for SCR’s first hit of its 2012 season, and an impressive $500,000 in net proceeds was raised for its artistic and educational programs. As a thank-you for playing a leading role at the gala ball, guests were presented First Nights tickets to any of the opening nights of SCR’s 49th season. Here! Here!

Selected photos by Debora Robinson