Audience members laughed, cried and applauded until their hands ached at South Coast Repertory on Sunday. The occasion was the dress rehearsal of the theater's 11th annual production of "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens' tale about the transformation of the miser's miser (Hal Landon Jr.) into a grateful and giving sort of chap.
"I cry every year," said SCR's director of development, Louise Cummings, after the show. "I sit there with tears streaming down my face the minute I think Tiny Tim might die."
Ron Michaelson, who portrays the Spirit of Christmas Present, said playing his part is the perfect prelude to Christmas. "Nothing puts me in the spirit more," said the jolly fellow who sweeps around the stage in evergreen-velvet robes and a wreath of holly in his hair.
But if those in Sunday night's audience--composed of SCR staff, technicians and board of trustees--thought they were moved by the play, they should see it again closer to Christmas, said Howard Shangraw (who plays Scrooge's nephew in the production). "The closer you get to the Big Day, the hotter the whole scene gets. It's magic."
Among guests were Wendy and Dan Wheeler, vice president of Security Pacific--underwriters and honorary producers of this season's production. The play will run from Thursday to Dec. 23.
Talk about getting into the spirit: Tickets are still available for what is certain to be the most touching concert of Orange County's holiday season. The Boys Choir of Harlem will perform at the Orange County Performing Arts Center's 17th annual Christmas Candlelight Concert at the Hyatt Regency Irvine on Sunday.
Choir director Walter Turnbull promises one hour of Christmas carols, spirituals, Mozart, and, are you ready? Duke Ellington!
"I want to give an overall view of the kind of music we perform," said Turnbull, who founded the choir in 1968. Selections will range from Mozart's "Magnificat" to Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If You Ain't Got That Swing)."
"The songs we perform are all in the spirit of education," said Turnbull, speaking of his choirboys and his audiences. "I try to help kids, who might not have had the opportunity, to experience music and understand their own heritage."
Ninety percent of the 150 choir members (30 will sing on Sunday) are from single-parent homes, Turnbull said. "They are from very poor families. In fact, if they weren't doing this they could very well be doing nothing--be on the streets. This opportunity saves their lives--keeps them busy and gives them a goal." Ciel Woodman is event chairwoman.
Catholic Charities: Bishops Norman McFarland and Michael Driscoll were among guests at an underwriting party at Deeann and Al Baldwin's Emerald Bay home on Sunday. Their goal? Helping to inspire guests to ante up underwriting funds to stage the Feb. 8 Mardi Gras ball sponsored by Catholic Charities of Orange County. Guests, who included arts activists Janice and Roger Johnson, enjoyed a wine reception and a video about the efforts of Catholic Charities before settling down to dinner catered by Pennington (the crepes Grand Marnier were so delicious that Al Baldwin went back for seconds). Among the programs supported by Catholic Charities are assistance for the elderly, lodging for the homeless, respite care for families with developmentally disabled children and helping the unemployed find work.
The Baldwins will be crowned king and queen at the fourth annual affair. (Past monarchs were Mary and Peter Muth, Art and Gaye Birtcher, and Gordon and Gale Lee.)
"This is an opportunity to aid an agency that reaches beyond the Catholic community," Driscoll said. Helen Hawkins, a member of the Catholic Charities board, is gala chairwoman.
Christmas at the Ritz: Some (heavenly) things never change. Elegant holiday decor dripped from the walls and ceiling of the fashionable Ritz restaurant in Newport Beach on Saturday (the way it always does when the Fashionables, supporters of Chapman College in Orange, stage their holiday brunch). The chairwoman and Fashionables president--Sandra Beigel and Mary Lou Hornsby, respectively--stood with Christmas carolers outside the posh restaurant, greeting guests (the way they always do). And the mouthwatering menu--soup en croute , poached Norwegian salmon and raspberry creme brulee --was to die for (the way it always is). Why change a good thing? "Sometimes we think we might," said Hornsby, sitting at a table with her husband, Scott, and Chapman President Allen Koenig. "Then we don't." Nora and Charles Hester were honorary chairmen. Also on the scene: Ritz owner Hans Prager and his wife, Charlene.
Don't miss: Don't miss the elegant exhibit of Tiffany & Co. silver on display at the Decorative Arts Study Center in San Juan Capistrano. Word's out that it's tres divine. (Tiffany will also create the decor at Sunday's Christmas Candlelight Concert). . . . Feel like being someone's best buddy during the holidays? Then zip on down to Zeppa at Newport Center Fashion Island on Sunday at 6 p.m. for the Art of Friendship gala cocktail party benefiting Best Buddies of America, a nationwide volunteer program that pairs college students with handicapped people. The organization was founded in 1986 by Anthony Shriver. Mark Zigner is chairman.