Music director Gustavo Dudamel greets actress and board member Julie Andrews… (Mathew Imaging )
The invitation to Thursday’s opening night gala for the Los Angeles Philharmonic proclaimed “The Philharmonic Dances,” and so, following a VIP champagne reception in Walt Disney Concert Hall's BP Hall, Gustavo Dudamel launched the 2012-13 season with more than music. Ballet, contemporary and Broadway-style dance shared the stage with the orchestra as he began his fourth year as music director of the L.A. Phil.
Following the program, the 600 gala guests -- who paid $2,500 and more per ticket -- were themselves ready to dance. Once inside the tent over a block of Grand Avenue that was softly bathed in a red glow for post-concert dining, they gravitated to the dance floor as the band blasted out a steady stream of rock tunes.
The gala brought out L.A.’s social, business and political leaders, as well as icons of film and television and bright young Hollywood stars. In addition to Julie Andrews, Don Johnson, Mary Hart, Constance Towers and Anne Jeffreys, the shindig attracted Jacqueline Emerson of “The Hunger Games,” Matthew Lillard of “Trouble With the Curve,” Matthew Rhys of “Brothers & Sisters,” Chris O’Donnell of “NCIS: Los Angeles” and Broadway singer Norm Lewis of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” among others.
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Coming from a musical background, Emerson clearly enjoyed spending a moment with Dudamel at the post-concert bash. Before gearing up for battle as Foxface in the Suzanne Collins blockbuster, Emerson performed with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, the L.A. Opera and Reprise Theatre Company. This summer, she sang her own composition, “Peter Pan,” with the MUSE-IQUE Orchestra.
“This made my night,” she said of her chat with the maestro.
“Gustavo Dudamel coming to the L.A. Phil is the greatest cultural advance to happen in Los Angeles,” said Lillard. “He makes bold choices -- he’s fearless.”
Heather Helm Lillard said that she and Matthew often bring their children to the L.A. Phil’s Toyota Symphonies for Youth series. “We have three children,” she said, then joked: “Sometimes, it feels like we have 30.”
Andrews, an L.A. Phil board member, also spoke of her admiration for the education programs. “That’s my avenue of interest,” she said, revealing that she is planning “something” (as yet unnamed) for Christmas.
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As guests settled down to their dinner, L.A. Phil Chairman David Bohnett welcomed the crowd. He then introduced the orchestra's President and Chief Executive Deborah Borda, who had high praise for the night’s performers, beginning with the contemporary Los Angeles dance company Bodytraffic, which began the night’s program with the Chinese-inspired piece “The Chairman Dances,” composed by John Adams and newly choreographed by Barak Marshall.
Of the American Ballet Theatre stars Roberto Bolle and Veronika Part, who danced to selections including Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” Borda said: “At least two people left us breathless tonight.”
She concluded her remarks by referencing the finale, Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town,” a Broadway classic about sailors in New York performed with new choreography by Josh Rhodes. “What would an evening be without four sailors on the loose?” she asked.
Taking his turn at the microphone, Dudamel described the season opening every year as “crazy,” “fun” and “special.” And before the evening ended, he too joined guests on the dance floor.
Also spotted were Joan and John Hotchkis, Carolyn and Bill Powers, Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, Joyce and Kent Kresa, Nancy and Barry Sanders, Sutton and Christian Stracke, Ginny Mancini, Carla Sands, Alyce Williamson, Carol Colburn Grigor, Marilyn Ziering and multiple Academy Award-winning composer John Williams. There too were L.A. County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas, as well as L.A. County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka.