You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lea Michele, Darren Criss, Seth MacFarlane Croon Broadway Favorites at Center Theatre Group Gala

Lea Michele, Darren Criss, Seth MacFarlane and acclaimed actress and playwright Dominique Morrisseau (“Ain’t Too Proud”) were among the performers who stole the show at Monday night’s “A Grand Night” fundraising gala for Center Theatre Group held at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

The song-filled event, which drew some 600 attendees and was followed by a post-show gala dinner on the stage of the Ahmanson Theater, raised $1.2 million for the non-profit arts organization, one of the largest theatre companies in the nation. Comprising the Taper, Ahmanson and Kirk Douglas Theater, Center Theater Group, of which Michael Ritchie is the artistic director, has provided the Los Angeles community with staged musical productions for more than 50 years, including, most recently, “Lackawanna Blues,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Come From Away” and “Falsettos.”

The song-studded gala, directed by Neel Keller, with Larry Blank as musical director and conductor, also featured classic Broadway and off-Broadway tunes sung by such seasoned stage performers as Nick Adams (“Falsettos”), Adam Shapiro (“Waitress”), Erich Bergen (“Jersey Boys”), Eden Espinosa (“Wicked,” “Rent”) and Barrett Foa (“Avenue Q”), as well as many others.

“To me, great theater is a reflection of a great city and a great society,” said gala performance co-chair and Center Theatre Group board member Matthew Walden. “And I think that it’s important that people come together and experience this sort of a collective moment. It’s also hugely important from an educational perspective because all the statistics show that kids who are involved in musical theater go on to be more confident, to be able to communicate better, they do better in interviews –it’s all part of finding their voice. And great culture is education and again, reflects a civilized society.”

The performers worked with Keller and Blank to come up with their musical choices. Highlights included MacFarlane, who crooned “Old Man River” from the musical “Showboat,” Criss and Michele, who performed a duet of “Broadway Baby” from “Follies” and Foa, whose comedic iteration of “One Day More” from “Les Miserables” featured an amalgam of Jean Valjean and Tevya from “Fiddler on the Roof” that sparked whooping peals of audience laughter.

“The idea was to draw on the Center Theater Group’s history in the musical theater space,” said Walden. “If you’ve looked at list of musicals we’ve done over the years, you can pretty much do whatever you want to.”

Looking back on the Ahmanson’s selection of shows over the years, gala performance co-chair Richard Weitz has many favorites, but there’s one that will forever stick out as the most memorable.

“For me it was ‘Rent,’ the LA production, in 1997, because it was the night I got engaged,” said Weitz. “So that, to me, is what has always been special about this theater.”

For real-life married couple Katie Lowes (“Waitress”) and Shapiro, Center Theater Group is a place where “theater nerds” in Los Angeles can not only explore their craft, but commune with fellow theater aficionados that have moved from the east coast to pursue additional avenues of media (TV, film) but who do not want to abandon their love and passion for live theater.

“I think the theater scene is just starting a major explosion in LA,” said Shapiro.

“We live in this town where there are so many theater nerds and you don’t even know it,” added Lowes. “There are so many playwrights that are TV writers now or actors that are on television shows that are real true diehard theater fans, and we all are in Los Angeles. CTG [Center Theater Group] is where we get to go for our Broadway, off-Broadway connection. It’s so important that it exists and it’s so important that the theater scene in Los Angeles is here. I really think that in the next ten years it will be even more prevalent.”

More Legit

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    Listen: Santino Fontana on How Broadway's 'Tootsie' Was Adapted for Our Times

    Broadway’s “Tootsie” has turned into one of this season’s Tony Awards frontrunners, winning raves for its deftly funny update of potentially problematic source material — and for a firecracker cast led by Tony nominee Santino Fontana (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Frozen”), who makes his character’s transformation, from difficult actor Michael Dorsey to female alter ego Dorothy Michaels, [...]

  • Death of a Salesman review

    London Theater Review: 'Death of a Salesman'

    August Wilson famously disavowed the idea of an all-black “Death of a Salesman.” In 1996, he declared any such staging “an assault on our presence and our difficult but honorable history in America.” Arthur Miller’s antihero is no everyman, Wilson implied; Willy Loman is very specifically white. Critic John Lahr was inclined to agree: “To [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content