Annette Bening, Jennifer Hudson, Matthew Broderick Celebrate Center Theatre Group's 50th Anniversary

David Livingston
Matthew Broderick

The group's star alums took to the stage for a special performance of scenes from its most iconic plays.

The Center Theatre Group, a cornerstone of Los Angeles’ cultural life, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special performance at the Ahmanson Theater on Saturday.

Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick and Edward James Olmos were just a few of the alumni onstage who helped recreate scenes from some of the group's most iconic plays like Angels in AmericaThe Kentucky Cycle and Children of a Lesser God.

Dancing With the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli attended the performance, and he told The Hollywood Reporter what made the Center Theatre Group such a vital part of the city's art scene.

“What they’ve achieved in 50 years is unbelievable," said Tonioli. "It’s magic. Opera, ballet, plays. They give playwrights the opportunity to do new work, and the talent available in Los Angeles is just extraordinary. It’s very important to bring it to the forefront of cultural events. It's where talent really gets nurtured.”

Broderick reprised his role as Eugene Jerome in Brighton Beach Memoirs, a role he first played nearly 30 years ago, and he spoke about how the Center Theatre Group helped him breakthrough as an actor.

“It was everything to me. My start was definitely here. I did a movie for Neil Simon, and as soon as it was done, I started rehearsing for Brighton Beach Memoirs,” said Broderick.

Center Theatre Group has always been known for diversity, producing the hit play Zoot Suit, which eventually became the first Chicano dramatic production to appear on Broadway.

Jimmy Smits spoke to the important role that the group played in promoting minority voices in the theater: “It’s wonderful to see it flourish the way it has and be very representative of Los Angeles and the diversity of Los Angeles. They developed so many voices. I remember when I was in rehearsal and August Wilson was in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes and trying to figure the last scene of a play. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The show ended with a stirring performance from Jennifer Hudson, and the audience was then led by a drumline into Grand Park for an alfresco reception, where they were treated to an over-the-top feast catered by Patina while images from some of the group’s most famous performances were projected onto the tower of City Hall.

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