Kevin Kline

Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Eric Idle performed at benefit

The Public Theater’s annual gala in Central Park was rained out June 10, but a lot of theater people, still recovering from the June 9 Tonycast and its annual round of parties, didn’t much mind. Everyone was much fresher for the gala’s rain date June 11.

With the likes of Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Eric Idle, Jonathan Groff and Anika Noni Rose lined up to star in a concert staging of “The Pirates of Penzance” that night, talk at the pre-show cocktail party, held backstage at the Delacorte Theater, ranged from a Broadway producer reminiscing about being a swing in the national tour of Joseph Papp’s 1980 production to a stage manager recalling how the first prepubescent stirrings of her loins were felt at the sight of a young Kline, who starred in that 1980 staging on Broadway, in purple pirate tights.

The evening, where the crowd was full of the Public’s major supporters, was also a tribute to the late Nora Ephron, a former Public board member and an on-the-record lover of Shakespeare in the Park.

After Public a.d. Oskar Eustis announced a cherry tree near the Delacorte would be dedicated to Ephron and a proclamation was read in which Mayor Michael Bloomberg (referring to himself, in true Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, as a “modern mayor general”) dedicated the day to Ephron, Meryl Streep, who starred in Ephron’s “Julie and Julia,” told a true story about the genesis of that film project at the Public gala several years ago.

Streep was sitting at the table Ephron purchased every year at that gala when, as Streep recalled, “I burbled to my tablemates,” — here she affected a pitch-perfect Julia Childs voice — “ ‘Bon appetit!’ ”
Streep took a long pause for effect. “Nora gave me a sideways look and said, ‘I have a thought.’ ”

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