Music, heritage and community underscore so much of what the Crescent City is all about, and three recent events attested to each aspect.
Throngs head to Tulane University’s Dixon Hall each June and July for the musical delights of the Summer Lyric Theatre. The 2015 season, which batted off with “Damn Yankees,” then bedded with “Once Upon a Mattress” and bamboozled with the final “Hello, Dolly,” celebrated its 48th season. It ended with a splash.
After the standing ovation of the last performance of “Hello, Dolly,” the Victorian bustles, bow ties and hats were removed for skimpier fare. Top-tier SLT supporters Frank and Paulette Stewart opened their showplace home for a pool party. It was a well-deserved treat after the cast’s onstage feat.
Placed on an easel at the Stewarts’ front door, one of the “Dolly” marquee posters greeted the guests, who were ready to make some waves. After a couple of hours of sipping and splashing, the cast made another move. It was inside the home for an impromptu encore. With graduate assistant and assistant musical director Andrew Craig at the piano, they sang some of their favorite Broadway songs.
Stars were many. Included were SLT interim artistic director Leonard Raybon, operations manager Charlie Hayes, “Dolly” and “Yankees” director Diane Lala, Little Lyric director Ken Goode (back in New Orleans after four years in New York), wardrobe assistant/“Dolly” dance captain Daniel Rigamer and Katie Howe, a New York-based musical theater graduate who played Irene Molloy in “Dolly,” one of the many roles she has had with Summer Lyric.
The theater’s iconic leading lady since 1996, Liz Argus played the “Dolly” title role to perfection. A holder of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tulane, Liz has commanded the SLT stage in more than 30 top roles. Joining her were husband John Meehan and their daughter, Tessie.
Still others were SLT board Chairmen Barbara and Mark Workman; the hosting Stewarts, one of the three executive committee couples; Junior Committee President Mathew Irimpen; technical director Michael Batt; and Linda Fried, costume shop manager.
And, all with a title or a role, Jenn Marks, Joshua Bernard, Ali Bloomston, Patrick Clark, Luke Halpern, Meghan Lydon, Dylan Hafer, Juane Buisson, Sharon Smetherman, Kate Bartels, Susan Barrett Smith, Larry Gibas and Christopher Arthur, the “Dolly” costume designer, whose ensembles rated “gorgeous.”
And, Nina Farris, Michael Smith, Lacey Faucheux, Sarah-Anne Martinez and Mandy Zirkenbach. Ole Miss musical theater students Atarius Armstrong, Bobby Kelly and Bryce Slocumb were in all three 2015 productions. Making rounds, too, was Voice of SLT Robert “Bob” Pavlovich, who draws applause for his stage work (such as Mr. Welch in “Damn Yankees”) and smiles when called Mr. Lala. He’s wed to the above Diane Lala.
Not in attendance at the pool party but eagerly anticipated is Dr. Michael McKelvey, the new SLT artistic director. Predecessor Michael Howard was connected with the SLT “family” for 47 years and now answers to artistic director emeritus.
“Hello” and “Goodbye” framed the Stewarts’ party. The first salutation encompassed a lot (including the celebrated “Dolly” musical) and the latter, the farewell to the successful 2015 season.
Doing What Comes Naturally
Another summer staple, The New Orleans Antiques Forum of The Historic New Orleans Collection, draws scores of participants from near and afar. A bus tour to significant plantations and homes launches the annual activity on a Thursday. The subsequent three days are filled with seminars and socializing, with the talks based in The Collection’s Research Center. “It’s Only Natural …” titled the 2015 activity that explored the South’s fascination with objects reflecting the beauty of nature and with the talented people who created them.
It was to the Royal Street location of the Collection that forum attendees, speakers, sponsors, staff, THNOC board members and the event’s honorary advisory committee hied after the lectures of the first, and very full, day for a cocktail reception.
Noted within the gathering of 125 were speakers Lydia Blackmore, John H. Lawrence and Jack Pruitt, all of THNOC, as well as forum moderator Tom Savage. Earlier that day, and after THNOC Executive Director Priscilla Lawrence made introductory remarks with the above forum organizer Jack Pruitt, Janine E. Skerry, John A. Burrison and Annette Blaugrund spoke. Saturday’s speakers included Bradley C. Brooks, Linda Carter Lefko, Beth Carver Wees, Ellen Paul Denker and Thomas C. McGehee, while the Sunday panel counted the above Lydia (who also led tours of the Williams residence, the former home of institution founders Gen. L. Kemper and Leila Hardie Moore Williams), Philippe Halbert and Robert F. Doares. “Jazz Brunch With the Speakers” drew the final flock to Antoine’s.
The Friday cocktail reception began in the elegant Counting House, THNOC’s portrait gallery, where a planter provided by Moss Antiques (one of the forum’s many sponsors) was filled with a thematic and spectacular floral arrangement created by Joel Haas, of Fancy Faces Décor. A light summer menu of finger sandwiches (“I love pimento cheese,” Tom Savage said as he reached for one), shrimp salad, chocolate Florentines, Champagne and wine sated the socializers, who turned an ear to the music of the Detroit A. Brooks Sr. Trio.
Mingling were many of the above, along with Alfred E. Lemmon, John and Martha Walker, Alexandra Stafford and mother Mimi, Claudia Kheel, Andree Keil Moss and son Keil, Alex Asprodites, Jessica Dorman, Karyn Murphy, Nell Carmichael, Thomas Jayne and Richmond Ellis (who swapped vows in New York in May), Isabelle Dissard-Cooper, Mercedes Whitecloud, Anne Pincus, Eugene D. Cizek, Jan Katz and Jim Derbes, Sally Richards, Sylvia and Robert Bensen, and Claire and Harry Stahel. “Natural” abounded with niceties.
Committee for a Better New Orleans
Sponsored by Jones Walker, First NBC Bank, Peoples Health, and Breazeale Sachse & Wilson, the sixth annual Diana Lewis Citizen Participation Awards of the Committee for a Better New Orleans spotlighted levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal, the League of Women Voters of New Orleans and keynote speaker former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. The above bank’s Ashton J. Ryan Jr. and Michael Smith, general manager of the Hyatt Regency, the luncheon’s site, were the honorary chairmen, while Anthony Carter and Julie Grantz teamed to chair it.
Within the assembly of 220, who listened attentively to Landrieu’s call for entrepreneurism, post-Katrina civic recovery and honesty in government, were Sandy’s husband Stephen Rosenthal, and, from the League of Women Voters, president Rosalind Cook, Judy Walker, Felicia Kahn and past DLCP awardee Joel Myers. Also, Councilwoman Susan Guidry; education activist Leslie Jacobs; New Orleans Business Alliance Chairman Henry Coaxum; Loyola University President Emeritus the Rev. James Carter, S.J., for the invocation; CBNO President Keith Twitchell; and, among many area executive directors, Cyn Sarthou (Gulf Restoration Network), Carolina Hernandez (Puentes New Orleans) and Martin Gutierrez (Catholic Charities).
A shaved Parmesan salad, chicken breast and bread pudding filled the luncheon bill, while The Last Straws made merry music.