Broad Stage opens with gala

Barbara Cook on hand for Santa Monica theater bow

SANTA MONICA -- The smell of fresh Honduran mahogany and the stylish sound of legendary Broadway vocalist Barbara Cook were in the air Saturday night for the opening of the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, a $45 million performing arts center that was 10 years in the making.

Cook performed a collection of American standards to elegantly christen the intimate 499-seat venue, which will present operas, symphonies, musicals and dance companies.

Eli and Edythe Broad have supplied a $10 million endowment for future programming and arts education at the new Santa Monica College building. Dustin Hoffman, who dropped out at the school back when it was known as Santa Monica Junior College, serves as chairman of the artistic advisory board.

Hoffman said he contributed to the design of the Broad by suggesting that there be a bathroom just off stage for those last-minute emergenies that often befall nervous actors. "They named it after me," Hoffman said in remarks before the show.

Hoffman was there, he added, because another famous Santa Monica College alum, James Dean, "wasn't available."

The modernist Broad building, inspired by Italy's horseshoe opera houses, was designed by Santa Monica architect Renzo Zecchetto. It was financed with a $35 million bond measure passed by the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu in 2004, $5 million from other government agencies and private donors and a bond measure for Santa Monica College improvements passed in 2002.

Dale Franzen is the artistic director.