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Carter Is the Nell of the Ball at Chapman

Black-tie gala honors Tony-winning actress and singer with achievement award and raises $708,000 for scholarship fund.

November 23, 2000|PAMELA DIAMOND

The event: Chapman University's 19th annual American Celebration, held Saturday on the Orange campus. The black-tie gala included a Broadway-style musical, "The Story of American Song."

The event honored Tony Award-winning actress/singer Nell Carter, who was given the university's Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award.

Also recognized was Stephen E. Frank of Southern California Edison, who was named Outstanding Corporate Citizen for his generosity to the community.

Enchanted evening: The university's grounds were transformed into a fairyland with twinkling white lights twined around trees and strung above the grove outside Memorial Hall, where Chapman student ambassadors greeted more than 600 guests.

Partygoers dined in a see-through tent--decorated with thousands of white lights--set up on the university mall. Mirrored tabletops were crowned with bouquets of white Ecuadorean roses and Dendrobian orchids.

Dinner included butternut squash soup, halibut in dill sauce, prosciutto-wrapped filet mignon and Grand Marnier chocolate mousse.

Stars and stripes: After dinner, guests followed a red carpet up the stairs into Memorial Hall, where Chapman students performed song-and-dance routines tracing the history of American music.

Students opened the show with a rousing rendition of "Yankee Doodle Dandy"--accompanied by a Rockettes-style chorus line--then segued into a bluegrass banjo/guitar review featuring folk songs.

The cast let loose with a blues/jazz medley, putting a sultry spin on Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot." After a finale that included the release of balloons, streamers and a rendition of "America the Beautiful," guests returned to the tent for coffee and dancing.

"The show is a salute to our heritage; it just warms the heart," said Gail Soderling, co-chair of the evening with her husband, Ron. "The great thing is, there's not a song in it that we can't all sing along to."

Inspiration to students: "We're honored to have this vivacious lady further inspire our students to dream big," said George Argyros, who gave Carter her award.

Carter, who gave an impromptu performance of "Amazing Grace," offered words of encouragement to the students: "Never let anyone tell you you can't do it," she said. "I know that I'm looking at at least one future star tonight."

Bottom line: The event grossed $708,000 for the university's scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to students.

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