Society / Featured Parties

Houston’s Fairytale Gala Turns the Corinthian Into a Magical Place

Record Breaking Night Conjures Up Visions of $30.5 Million Theater to Come

BY // 03.29.18
photography Priscilla Dickson, Daniel Ortiz

The invitation to the record-breaking Stages Repertory Theater‘s 2018 Gala asked guests to dress in “Fairytale Fabulous” and many in the crowd of 400 at The Corinthian eagerly complied. The gala, officially titled “Off the Ball: A Stages Cinderella Story,” was inspired by the troupe’s Panto Cinderella holiday hit as well as a celebration of the theater company’s special 40th anniversary.

A large number of women — and a few men — accessorized their evening wear with crowns or sparkling tiaras. Among those standing out in themed attire were Jo and Jim Furr and C.C. and Duke Ensell as royal couples, Beth Muecke and Nicole Lassiter as crowned princesses (Nicole’s husband, James, also looked sharp in a custom-made dinner jacket), Vivian Wise and Carolyn Farb in floral headpieces, and Holland Vavra in a twig-embellished evening gown that she borrowed from the Theater Under The Stars production of Into the Woods.

For those who wanted to dress up even more, racks of embellished robes, feather boas, wacky sunglasses, and other eye-catching costumes were set up in the women’s and men’s restrooms after dinner, so guests who wanted to dance the night away to the tunes of the Taylor Pace Orchestra could borrow an outfit and show their individuality. Stages board chairman George Lancaster stood out in a kingly white robe as part of the fun.

In keeping with the theme, Bergner & Johnson Design transformed the stately Corinthian into a magical space with dozens of crystal chandeliers, stark white branches and marabou fur spheres hanging from the ceiling. Jackson and Company created a sumptuous dinner that included a main course of oven-roasted sea bass in lemon beurre blanc and the French classic dessert, “Oeufs à la neige,” scoops of meringue floating in a pool of crème anglaise garnished with edible fairy dust and flower garnish. And if that wasn’t enough, hamburger sliders and fries were served as late night snacks.

The high point of the evening came when longtime actor, director and Stages board member Sally Edmundson was honored with the Theodore Award for Visionary Leadership. Edmundson, a favorite of Stages audiences, is currently starring as former Texas Governor Ann Richards in the one-woman show Ann. It is one of the most popular productions in Stages history and has been extended through April 22.

“To me this feels like a group award,” Edmundson said, noting the team spirit of the theater company. “I just happen to be the dinosaur who made it through most of those 40 years.”

Edmundson also noted that groundbreaking will take place in May on a $30.5 million state-of-the-art theater complex “that will certainly allow us to soar to greater artistic heights.” The new building is expected to be ready for the theater company’s 2019-2020 season. Managing director Mark Folkes later singled out Isla and Tommy Reckling for their success as honorary chairs in the theater’s capital campaign.

Gala chairs Elaine and Ray Messer and underwriting chairs Judy and Jim Nicklos were thrilled that the event raised more than $440,000 — the largest amount in Stages’ Gala history — to support the theatre’s range of artistic and education programs.

The total was boosted by an impressive array of auction items rounded up by auction committee members Krish Arora, Whitney Burns, Brenda Jones, Vicki Rizzo, and Alexis Rogers. Items included a trip to Marfa on a private plane donated by Glenda and Russell Gordy, with Beth Tilney the top bidder, and a deluxe Costa Rica adventure featuring two days of fishing on a luxury yacht, which James Bell snagged. Sheila Webber, Lori Spielde, and Nicole Lassiter were the winners of “Cinderella Slippers” in a raffle as each took home a pair of designer pumps by Tom Ford, Aquazzura, and Sophie Webster.

Also seen in the crowd were Stacy Feltham and Marc Cutler, Mauri Oliver, Tara Simon,  Gayle and Lloyd Bentsen, Leslie and Jack Blanton, Kelli Blanton, Ralph Burch and Vicki West, Jerry Anne Woodfin-Costa and Victor Costa, Jane and Dick Schmitt, Annette and George Strake, Sandra Porter, Leisa Holland-Nelson, and Maya and Hank Fastoff.

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