Lyric Opera Gala Review - King & I Themed Fest

The performers from the Thai Cultural & Fine Arts Institute moved from a stairway as stage to the cocktail party floor. Photo: Jaclyn Simpson

 

If there’s one thing better than getting to see the Lyric Opera’s current production of The King & I, it’s getting to see it twice.  Even better, seeing that second performance sandwiched in between two lavish events for several hundred of the Lyric’s most faithful.

 

Renee Fleming, Lyric's creative consultant, here with Anthony Freud (Lyric Opera General Director -left) and Ted Chapin (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization President - right) sat in the first row during the performance. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Picture the Civic Opera House foyer transformed by flowers and golden Thai imagery (Kehoe Designs), platters of hors d’oeuvres that are so beautiful you hesitate a moment before devouring them,

 

Dancers and musicians from Chicago's Thai Cultural & Fine Arts Institute smiled in that ever-so-Thai way during their performance. Photo: Jaclyn Simpson

 

 

smiling dancers and musicians in authentic Thai costumes threading through the crowd as they perform, cocktail dress finery in all directions, and champagne, wine and Thai-themed cocktails aplenty.   

 

Nearly 500 guests enjoyed the pre-performance cocktail reception in the Rice Grand Foyer of the Civic Opera House. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Already feted to the moon, a sumptuous dinner starting with classic Thai som tum (papaya salad), Chinese-style beef, and more followed (Meal curated by Embeya Executive Chef Mike Sheerin and executed by Calihan Catering). 

 

Table decor by Kehoe Designs. Photo: Jaclyn Simpson

 

Even better than the food, was the chance to meet Lyric patrons at dinner. 

 

They came all the way from Anchorage! Natalia Saprykina and Carl Propes. Photo: Dan Rest

 

At our table we met two Alaskans who love the Lyric and made it a point to stop in Chicago en route to their European vacation, as well as a third generation Lyric fan who had filled the table with her friends and family. 

 

Kate Baldwin and Paolo Montalban. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

 

Following the dinner, the Gala moved to the theater space to see a performance of The King & I, where the stellar voices again made the wonderful score by Rodgers & Hammerstein center stage, and where the sometimes comical performance by the lead playing the King, Paolo Montalban, was, if anything, even more charming than the first time we had seen this production.  (Read the full Splash magazine review of The King & I  here). 

 

Mai Claypool (second from left) with fellow cast members Jaslene Gonzalez, Erika Choe, and Jolina Javier dance up a storm in the post-performance party. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Unfortunately this Farmer Jane reviewer was unable to attend the after-party held on stage, where pictures suggest that dancer Mai Claypool (profiled earlier in Splash magazines—read it here) and fellow cast members seemed to be having even more fun than we know she has on stage watching her fellow actors do their magic.

 

The Lyric reports that The King and I Celebration, organized by the Lyric’s Women’s Board and the Guild Board of Directors was attended by 475 guests and raised (gross) half a million dollars for the Lyric Opera.  All of us who love the Lyric and all it does for Chicago owe a great deal to the many Lyric volunteers who made this event possible.  A partial list includes: 

 

Event co-chair Caroline Huebner with her handsome family --(left to right) George, Julie, Charlie and Caroline. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Co-chair Frank DeVincentis and his wife Stephanie. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Caroline Huebner and Frank DeVincentis, Event Co-Chairs;

 

Women's Board Member Mamie Case and her husband Greg(left) with Caroline and Charlie Huebner, Event Co-Chair (right). Photo: Dan Rest

 

Nancy Santi with The King & I lead Paolo Montalban. Photo: Dan Rest

 

(left to right) Paolo Montalban, who plays the King in The King and I, with Guild Board Member Maggie Rock and her husband Rod Rock. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Women's Board Member Mamie Case and her husband Greg. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Women's Board Members Mamie Case and Nancy Searle; Guild Board Members Daria Lewicky, Anne Zenzer, Maggie Rock and Sarah Demet; Lead Sponsor Zurich, represented by Lyric Board Member Mike Foley; Media Sponsor Make it Better headed by Founder and Women's Board Member Susan B. Noyes.

 

Guild Board Member Sarah Demet with Guild Board President Oscar Tatosian. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Women's Board Member Nancy Searle with King & I star Paolo Montalban. Photo: Dan Rest

 

Mike Foley, Lyric Board Member and representative of lead sponsor Zurich, with his wife Sheila (left) and King & I star Kate Baldwin at the after party. Photo: Dan Rest

 

The King & I  performances continue through May 22.  Tickets for the next Lyric Opera season are currently on sale as well.   For information or tickets visit the Lyric Opera website or call 312 827 5600.

 

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