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'Phantom' Stage Set for Gala Benefit

May 13, 1988|ANN CONWAY

It's not "Phantom of the Opera," but it's about as close as Orange County is going to get to Andrew Lloyd Webber's controversial musical for a long, long time.

The Founders of Opera Pacific hope to make $50,000 on the "Phantom"-themed benefit they will toss June 18 at Chateau Tranquille, the 17th-Century style mansion in San Juan Capistrano that belongs to developer Art Birtcher and his wife, Gaye.

Glossy black invitations embellished with red-ribbon roses will soon be mailed to the 400 guests, who will be asked to dress in attire suitable for turn-of-the-century opera going.

The Birtchers' sprawling veranda, with its sweeping twin staircases, will help Opera Pacific "simulate the Paris Opera House," said Maxine Gibson, who, along with her husband, Bob, is chairing the event. The Gibsons also chaired last year's Founders' gala, a "La Boheme"-themed affair that had guests crying in their bubbly during Mimi's farewell scene (and loving every minute of it).

While the gala will be staged outside, as are most social events at the Birtchers' residence, underwriters will get to enjoy a pre-gala reception in the couple's breathtaking home. (The entry contains a monastic font used by 14th-Century monks to wash their hands after toiling in the fields. Gaye keeps it filled with flowers.)

George Weston, director of volunteer services for the opera company, is staff coordinator for the event. He has lined up Jason Kent West, associate organist for the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, to play "Phantom's" haunting orchestral interludes.

Vignettes from "Phantom of the Opera" will be staged in full costume, with members of Opera Pacific's overture company performing "Music of the Night," "This is All I Ask," "Point of No Return," and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again."

Here's the way it works: for a $4 delivery charge, the Newport Beach service will transport any amount of food from any one of 40 restaurants listed in its menu-filled directory. And the part hostesses love the mostest: appetizers can be ordered from Rothschild's, the main course can come from the Five Crowns (its prime rib is a best seller) and dessert can come from Hemingway's.

"We have customers who order appetizers for 6 p.m., their entree for 7 p.m. and dessert at 8 p.m.," said Peter Hetherington, vice president of Restaurant Express. Delivery and presentation is made by a tuxedo-clad waiter who opens food-stuffed Styrofoam boxes with a flourish anywhere the hostess wishes--in her garage, her kitchen, her boat's galley or smack dab in the middle of her formal dining room.

Since the operation began last year, the largest order has come from a woman who, on a Sunday afternoon, found herself with 35 hungry guests and no caterer. Restaurant Express saved the day. But the majority of orders come from folks who just want to enjoy restaurant-quality food without the hassle of crowds.

Two owners of Restaurant Express directories: comedian Joey Bishop, who resides in Newport Beach, and Claire Trevor Bren, mother of Irvine Co. owner Donald Bren. Bren "requested that we send one to Hotel Pierre in New York (where she resides)," Hetherington said. Start spreadin' the news. . . .

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