Our 8 Favorite Moments From The Music Center's 50th Anniversary Spectacular
The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles celebrated its first 50 years with a huge party at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last night. For the first time in its history, all four of the Music Center's resident companies—the Center Theatre Group, the LA Phil, LA Opera and the Los Angeles Master Chorale—as well as its noted dance series Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, performed on the same stage with the musicians and performers collaborating in some unexpected and surprising ways.
The evening, which included the great Judith Light serving as its informal emcee, provided little history lessons in between performances of the founding of the Music Center, which includes four of downtown's most iconic venues—The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre—and was developed through a public-private partnership between L.A. County and its Board of Supervisors and four 'founding families,' whose scions were in attendance: the Chandlers, Ahmansons, Disney Millers and Tapers.
Other L.A. arts patrons came out to support and we spotted a few celebs on the red carpet, onstage or in the crowd, with Debbie Allen, Jenna Elfman, Davis Gaines, John Glover, Susan Graham, David Henry Hwang, Phylicia Rashad, Garcelle Beauvais, Demian Bichir, Kate Burton, Neve Campbell, Stana Katic, Nigel Lythgoe, among the throngs.
But the night was about live performances in music, dance and theater. Some of the performances did prove to be spectacular, so in no particular order here are eight of our favorite moments from the evening:
1. Chandeliers: The Los Angeles Opera Orchestra served as the evening's orchestra, and the show opened with the orchestra on stage and a string quartet playing in vertically moving 'chandeliers.' The women were suspended at the top for the opening remarks, too, so they not only had to be proficient players, but also not afraid of heights.
2. Choral Music ftw: In its spotlight performance, members of The Los Angeles Master Chorale made a dramatic entrance to the Hall through the aisles to the haunting Me-Na-Ri by Korean composer Hyowon Woo.
3. Vive la France: Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham took on Edith Piaf's signature song, "La Vie En Rose." Who doesn't love that song?
4. Oscar Memories: Long before the Academy Awards were held at the Dolby (formerly the Kodak) Theater, they were held at the Dorothy Chandler for a number of years. A film montage showed some of the highlights that took place on the stage: David Niven's streaker, Sally Field's "You like me!" speech, Roberto Benigni's enthusiastic Oscar win and Jane Fonda's hair. It was all pretty awesome.
5. 525,600 Minutes: Jennifer Leigh Warren sang a too short, but powerful, snippet of "Seasons of Love" from Rent.
6. The Swan: The Swan and Prince Duet from Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake with Christopher Marney and Chris Trenfield was sensual and powerful. In Bourne's production, the swans are danced by men.
7. No Simulcast Snafus: There was a simulcast from Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street in which the LA Phil, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, performed Esa-Pekka Salonen's "Helix," as members of the L.A. Dance Project danced a specially commissioned work by New York City Ballet's resident wunderkind choreographer Justin Peck. Simulcasts are always tricky and Dudamel seemed as pleased—and relieved—as the audience when the video, music and dance were all in sync.
8. Edward James Olmos: The always-riveting Edward James Olmos performed a scene from Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit, in a role that he originated at the Mark Taper Forum in 1978. Olmos commanded the audience's attention during the monologue and then afterward when spoke about the importance of Chicano theater, and the arts in general. This line, in particular, stuck with us and seemed to sum up the Music Center's celebration: "Art is the backbone of our humanity."
The party continues tonight with a Next 50 Party in the Pavilion at The Music Center.