William Ivey Long, Vanessa Redgrave, Heather Hitchens, and Joely Richardson at the American Theatre Wing Gala.
Ladies and gents,
It’s official: “the season” — that magical 9 month period in New York when dance cards are perpetually full and the cultural landscape is filled to the brim with new offerings — is in full swing! Labor Day signals the official beginning of the season for some. Others don’t realize it’s upon them until they slip on a cardigan for the first time before heading out into the particularly bracing morning air. For myself, I know I’m in the middle of it when my under-eye area decides to visit my jaw line. But the American Theatre Wing has given us a new (and much more celebratory) way to kick off the season now that their annual gala takes place in September.
There is no more glamorous way to say goodbye to summer than to don formal attire and show up at the Plaza to cheer The Wing – that venerable, ninety-five year old organization devoted to celebrating and supporting excellence in the theatre. Each year they choose an honoree and this year they decided to honor not a person nor an organization but an entire family. And not just any family, mind you, but the most lauded and applauded family in the history of showbiz: The Redgraves. Of course, the room was packed with stars but when The Redgraves show up, en masse (as they did at the tail end of the cocktail hour), other stars seem to suddenly vanish as all eyes train on the world’s most famous acting dynasty. The family members in attendance numbered a dozen and included the great Vanessa Redgrave, her husband Franco Nero, and their son Carlo Nero. Vanessa’s daughter, Joely Richardson, was also on hand with her daughter Daisy Bevan. Liam Neeson, husband of the late Natasha Richardson, brought along sons Daniel and Michael. Annabel Clark and Ben Clark, children of the late Lynn Redgrave, turned out as well, as did Kika Markham (Corin Redgrave’s widow), who brought along grandson Gabriel Owen. (Non-Redgravian notables in the crowd included Jessica Chastain, Judy Collins, Brian Dennehy, Joan Didion, Jesse Eisenberg, Star Jones, Laura Linney, Jo Sullivan Loesser, Debra Messing, Angelica Page, Patrick Page, Oliver Platt, Mary Rodgers, and Morley Safer.)
The Wing’s Executive Director, Heather Hitchens, opened the evening with remarks about the Wing’s remarkable and long history, and soon attention turned to Theodore S. Chapin, the former Wing Chairman who received special recognition for his service dolled out by none other than Hal Prince himself! Then came dinner. Then entertainment. Broadway powerhouses (and mother and son) Daryl Roth and Jordan Roth took the stage and, appropriate enough, introduced the theme of family before introducing a line-up of entertainers both dazzling and eclectic, that included Alan Cumming, Laura Osnes, Will Chase, Ron Raines, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Celia Keenan-Bolger. When the singing stopped, new Wing chairman William Ivey Long shared some personal memories of working with Lynn and Natasha before introducing longtime Redgrave family friend John Benjamin Hickey. Hickey spoke of falling madly in love with Natasha when they working together in Cabaret, despite a) her marriage and b) his homosexuality. Finally, Vanessa and her entire brood took the stage and accepted the honor. Vanessa is old hat at accepting awards but something about this particular occasion seemed to leave her overcome – perhaps it was being flanked by so many loved ones. Everyone was so moved and having so much fun the evening could have gone on and on but I’m told young Michael Redgrave had to rush home so he wouldn’t be too tired for school the next day. Ah, family.
Tidbits from around town…
Witnessed TV icon Cindy Williams in a nun’s habit bowling a near perfect frame at Bowlmor Times Square, promoting her upcoming tour in Nunset Boulevard.
Saw ubiquitous actor and Labyrinth co-Artistic Director Yul Vazquez giving an autograph to a fan wearing a Hello Kitty jumpsuit.
Spotted the Rev. Al Sharpton carrying around a copy of the New York Observer, featuring a cover story about him written by Daniel D’Addario.
Noticed that Emotional Creature scribe Eve Ensler’s iPhone case is inscribed with the phrase, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!