BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Who could top this?
Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25 Anniversary Chairs Deann and Rick Bayless and Donna La Pietra and Bill Kurtis launched the new season and heralded the live auction at the recent ICONS gala in surely the most ingenious way. The star-studded nights out included a guacamole class with Rick and a cocktail tutorial hosted by Deann’s and Rick’s daughter Lanie Bayless, followed by dinner at the family’s iconic Topolobampo; a dazzling dinner with Bill and Donna before a taping of WBEZ’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me;” and Porchlight Board Member Steve McDonagh and his Hearty Boys Catering partner Dan Smith hosting a dinner prepared by them and featuring special desserts by Gale Gand and others.
Rick apologized for his pun in announcing he was there to “sing the praises of Porchlight MusicTheatre.” To capture the audience of 300’s auction attention, Donna and Bill played a game from “Wait Wait” to everyone’s delight with Bill singing his answers as he introduced each item. Auctioneer Greg Dellinger masterfully sold these arresting experiences.
The Gala Brunch at the Ritz Carleton, chaired by Tamara Sims, included performances from Chicago’s leading talents celebrating the legendary career of Jerome Robbins, and the presentation of the Luminary Award to Jean Klingenstein, steadfast supporter of Porchlight and other Chicago theaters. The tribute was naturally a musical, with multi-Jeff Award-winning Donica Lynn singing One from A Chorus Line with guests joining in the salute.
Board Chair Keith Olenik and Vice Chair Tony Gibson welcomed guests and told about the company’s new season at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts as part of its Artists-in-Residence program.
Being a Porchlight special event, music and performances took center stage with David Fiorello and the band performing Jerome Robbins-inspired numbers, and one of the stars of Porchlight’s recent hit A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder Andrés Enriquez was first to the day’s busy microphone. Executive Director Jeannie Lukow noted that Porchlight now has the highest number of subscribers in its history and has expanded its educational programming in Chicago’s public schools.
Mark Kelly Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural and Special Events, reflected on The Year of Chicago Theatre and how Porchlight and its productions “reflect Chicago’s place as a performing arts leader on a global scale and is truly a national treasure.”
Throughout the brunch, Artistic Director Michael Weber spoke about Robbins’ storied life and career, including videos and photos of the many productions with which he was affiliated including On the Town, with stars of the upcoming A Chorus Line Clayton Cross, Richard Strimer and Matthew Weidenbener dancing and singing.
For more about Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Season, visit porchlightmusictheatre.org
Photos by Michael Courier