The Music Center Toasts 50 Years With Unprecedented Collaborations

Judith Light - P 2014
Courtesy of Slate PR

Judith Light - P 2014

Members of the four founding families — the Ahmansons, the Chandlers, the Disneys and the Tapers — attended Saturday night's gala event in downtown Los Angeles

Fifty years of Los Angeles' cultural history came to life on stage on Dec. 6 as The Music Center hosted its semicentennial celebration, a gala event that captured its resident companies under the same roof at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a unique live experience featuring one-of-a-kind collaborations.

"Tonight The Music Center is doing what it does best, it’s bringing to audiences unprecedented performances and unforgettable collaborations backed to this iconic stage where it all began," said versatile performer Judith Light, who kicked off the show with remarks that paid tribute to a rich history of live entertainment championed by the building's namesake, Dorothy Buffum Chandler. "A vital cultural hub is central to Los Angeles' stance as the creative crossroads of the world, but to manifest a dream as big as The Music Center it took a visionary to lead the way."

Event organizers for the historic celebration had a vision too, one that saw resident companies Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Philharmonic, L.A. Opera and Los Angeles Master Chorale share the same stage throughout the evening in grouped collaborations that traced the past five decades in music, theater and dance. The Music Center’s dance company — Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center — also had a spin in the spotlight too for one of the night's most memorable pairings with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the L.A. Phil across the street at Walt Disney Concert Hall while dancers from the L.A. Dance Project performed Helix. Simulcast on a large screen, Dudamel joked, "We will play here, they will dance over there. I hope it works." And it did. 

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Other memorable performances included: Edward James Olmos in Zoot Suit; John Glover and company in Angels in America; Susan Graham in an opera medley; Christopher Marney and Chris Trenfield in Swan Lake duet; Phylicia Rashad in Gem of the Ocean; and Shoshannah Stern and Michael Weston in Children of a Lesser God. Other stars who took the stage included Jenna Elfman, Demian Bichir, Jane Kaczmarek, Nigel Lythgoe, Davis Gaines, Debra Monk, Debbie Allen, Tracie Bennett and Grant Gershon, among others. Also in attendance were L.A. Mayor Eric GarcettiPaula Abdul, Stana Katic, Neve Campbell, Kate Burton and Garcelle Beauvais.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, also made an appearance on the Dorothy Chandler stage, which played host to 25 Oscar telecasts. She noted "amazing moments" of pop culture history that happened there, including Jack Palance's one arm push-ups, Roberto Benigni's chair hopping and Christopher Reeve's surprise appearance.  

"The Music Center and the Academy share a profound appreciation of the influence of arts in our society," she added. "We are proud to be a party of your history and honored to have you be a part of ours." Of Chandler, Isaacs offered that she was "a visionary woman whose passion for the creative arts galvanized our city and help make it a center of excellence for all the performing arts."

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Light also made mention of a special group of attendees and their influence on the performing arts. "As we commemorate 50 amazing years with this magnificent celebration, we are honored to have celebrating along with us tonight members of the four founding families, the Ahmansons, the Chandlers, the Disneys and the Tapers," she said to rousing applause. "You make everything that we do possible."

The night, which started with a pre-gala champagne reception, ended with a VIP dinner underneath a white tent adjacent to the pavilion. The event raised more than $5.3 million for The Music Center, which should prove to be a nice beginning for the next 50 years.