Society / Featured Parties

New York Podcast Star and a Broadway Force Bring Plenty of Theater to a Magical Houston Night

Fashion Designer David Peck’s BFFs Sure Know How to Liven Up a Party

BY // 04.27.18
photography Priscilla Dickson and Wilson Parish

For its annual gala, Theatre Under The Stars worked some social media magic in enchanting surroundings on the stage of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Fashion designer David Peck, who co-chaired the gala with his wife, Michelle Phillips, and Cal and Connie Dalton, enlisted Peck’s new best friend, New York actress Ilana Levine, to host a sliver of her popular podcast, “Little Known Facts,” with Beth Malone, currently on Broadway in Angels in America in front of the black-tie audience.

The duo discussed the Broadway life before Malone, who was nominated for a Tony for her starring role in Fun Home, ended the segment with an enthusiastic rendition of “I Ain’t Down Yet,” from The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Malone is rumored to be headed to New York with the production.

Peck had befriended Levine after listening to her podcast and invited her to the gala. She said she was impressed by the Houston theater community she had met during her brief Houston trip as well as a visit to the Rothko Chapel, which she found overwhelming.

Taylor DeMartino, founder of LIVE Event Design, transformed the stage into a magical setting, with giant twinkling orbs overhead and lavish floral centerpieces in shades of purple, pink, and lavender, on each table. After enjoying cocktails and entertainment by students from the TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre and The River Performing and Visual Arts Center in the Hobby Center Grand Lobby, the 300 guests made their way to the stage for a sumptuous dinner of lump crabmeat tower, coffee-crusted filet mignon, and “Doll Shots” (a raspberry, basil and rose frappe) catered by Jackson and Company.

Jim and Helen Shaffer were honored for their decades of service and support to TUTS and the Houston arts community. Helen Shaffer noted that it is the theater company’s 49th anniversary and added, “I know that (longtime TUTS supporter) Barbara Bush and Frank Young (TUTS founder) are looking down on us and the wonderful work this organization has done.”

Throughout the evening, Simone Gundy, Holland Vavra, Courtney Markowitz, and Mark Ivy sang hits from Guys and Dolls, the classic musical which TUTS will be performing with a “Latin-inspired reimagining” at the Hobby Center from June 12 to 24.

Afterwards, guests returned to the Grand Lobby for drinks, flamed dessert and a lively after-party featuring disco favorites performed by the Taylor Pace Orchestra.

The evening raised $500,000 for TUTS’s artistic and education initiatives.

In tribute to Peck’s participation, a number of guests wore evening wear from his collections. Those in Peck designs included TUTS executive director Hillary Hart, Houston Chronicle society columnist Amber Elliott, TUTS director of development Amy Lampi, Houston Theater District CEO Kathryn McNiel, and Larissa Ipsen, as well as Levine, Malone and Peck’s wife, Phillips.

Also seen in the crowd were Steve and Leticia Trauber, Jennifer and Bryan Caswell, Tammy Nguyen, Farida Abjani, Heather and Shawn Conerly, David Bamford and Luis Perez, Ernie Manouse and Walt Zipprian, Becky and Bart McAndrews, Paul David Van Atta and Gregg HarrisonRandy and Sandy StilleyFrank and Demetra Jones, Julie and Rob Goytia, Alan and Tricia RatliffJay Landa and Daniel Turner, TUTS artistic director Dan Knechtge, Cara Crafton, Jessie Dugan, and Alison and Chris Bell.

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