Sarah Brightman and Georgia Frontiere learned they had something in common on Wednesday night. They both sing the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
"But I sing it in the shower!" said a laughing Frontiere, owner of the Los Angeles Rams.
Frontiere, wearing a demure floral print and a dazzling diamond choker, was among the bevy of wide-eyed guests who swept into Birraporetti's restaurant to pay homage to Brightman, star of "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber," which had its Southern California premiere at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Tuesday. In the production, Brightman, a lyric soprano, sings some of the songs that have made her composer-husband a legend in his own time.
"Wasn't she exquisite?" said Frontiere, who said she'd love the nightingale and the composer to visit her double-decker suite at Anaheim Stadium on Sunday to watch the Rams. "I've seen 'The Phantom of the Opera' (in which Brightman starred in London and New York) 12 times. I have a place in London, and whenever someone visits, I take them to the show!" Brightman beamed.
Frontiere arrived on the arm of her beau, Earle Weatherwax Jr., a Los Angeles builder. Have they set a wedding date? "Actually, we haven't talked about marriage yet," said Frontiere, flashing her famous smile.
Birraporetti's, site of many a post-performance splash, never looked so good. Long-stem white roses graced each table. Bouquets of iridescent balloons smothered the ceiling. And an Italian repast that even the disciplined Brightman couldn't resist beckoned from the banquet tables.
Did her Costa Mesa audience accord her the reception she'd hoped for? "Well, I certainly felt a warm feeling coming over the stage lights," said the beautiful Brightman, daintily sipping a diet Coke next to Paula Brightman, her equally beautiful mum.
How is she able to give her theatrical all, night after night? "Each performance is a first night for an audience," said Brightman, dressed in a ruby-red gauze ensemble. "So you have to give it all you've got. If you didn't, it wouldn't be much fun, now, would it?"
Keeping a very low profile at the bash, staged by the Performing Arts Center, was Dale Kristien, currently starring (in the role Brightman created) with Michael Crawford in the Los Angeles production of "The Phantom of the Opera."
"Sarah was lovely tonight," said Kristien, her flowing straight hair a contrast to Brightman's equally long but curly tresses. "I'd never seen her."
As for the haunting "Phantom," Kristien said: "You can't beat it."
"That music. That story . You just can't do better. To be able to go on stage and tell that story night after night is pure joy."
Party-goers, mostly members of the Center Stars support group, had hoped Webber would attend. But he was in London on business, said his publicity rep, Merle Frimark, promising the composer "would join the tour at some point." (The party was abuzz with talk of "Webber sightings." "My friend is sure he saw Webber at the Beverly Heritage hotel on Monday," said one. "I'm sure I saw him around the Center on Monday," said another. "Webber's the phantom!" said another.)
A member of the local arts cognoscente said Webber is supposed to be in the audience on Friday night. "But I hate to go on the record," he said. "Things change."
"I don't think Webber even knows when he'll be here," said Frimark. "But he definitely plans to be here."
Among those giving Brightman a standing ovation on Wednesday was Center Chairman Henry Segerstrom and his wife, Renee. The couple eschewed the bash at Birraporetti's, but, after the show, met with Brightman and introduced her to their theater guests, vintner Robert Mondavi and his wife, Margrit Biever.
"The Segerstroms loved Brightman," said Center President Thomas Kendrick.
And so did Kendrick. "She has the face of a Botticelli angel," he said.
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A review of her performance in "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" at the Center. F1