Monday, June 6, 2011

Armistead Maupin Feted @ ACT "Tales" Premiere

Miss Beglow's Social City

Photo by Catherine Bigelow
The many, colorful tales of one beloved city starred as a heartfelt love letter to San Francisco Wednesday during the opening-night gala and world premiere of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" at the American Conservatory Theater.

Prior to curtains-up, some 700 gala guests (a joyful sartorial mash-up of black-tie, face-paint and peacock feathers) arrived at Union Square Park where Tales Gala chairwoman Marilee Gardner (with able assists from Barbary Lane Committee co-chairs Cissie Swig and JaMel Perkins, and Tales honorary gala co-chairs Laura Linney and Maupin), guaranteed a good time for ACT stalwarts, super supporters, city swells and diehard "Tales" fans.

"This is like an Armistead story come to life," observed composer Jake Heggie, with a joking aside. "It's the kind of parties he used to write about and make fun of!"

Inside joke or not, the gala's unbridled merriment was shared by all. Which also raised a hefty $950K in support of ACT's education programs. And was deeply appreciated by those who labored on this work of love.

"This has been hard. We"ve been working 18 hour days for weeks now," admitted ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff. "But director Jason Moore and choreographer Larry Keigwin have been delicious -- they're intrepid, sexy, talented. Armistead has been to every preview and is over the moon about the production."

Cocktails and canapes were served beneath a clear Classic Party Rentals tent tricked-out by designer Stanlee Gatti with swags of theatrical purple curtains framing red and purple linen-draped tables atop which was served a masterful McCall Associates, '70s-era inspired meal: Crab Louis salad with Green Goddess dressing, filet mignon with potatoes Diana, and a nostalgic slice of McCall's to-die-for version of the old Blum's Coffee Crunch cake.

"Now this is what we call a San Francisco treat," enthused ACT Board President Rusty Rueff, prior to the post-dinner presentation. "Tonight is an historic celebration, adapted from Armistead's 'Tales,' of this magical place we call home."

And with that, cast members from Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon trooped onstage to present a signature song, created by BBB producer Jo Schuman Silver, which honored Maupin (in a fabulous BBB-created "Tales" book hat) and thanked key ACT supporters, sponsors and ACT Producing Director James Haire, who after 40 years, just retired from the stage.

One such clever stanza, set to the Beatle's "Penny Lane," paid homage to Maupin's beloved "Tales" characters:

28 Barbary Lane is where the action is/ When Mary Ann arrives from Cleveland/ Quite the lass/ Meets Mrs. Madrigal, who's smoking grass/ It will kick your ass.

Chronicle Editor Ward Bushee then presented Maupin with a framed copy of the author's very first "Tales" column which debuted in The Chronicle on May 24, 1976.

"What a journey it's been for all of us. Tonight, a lifelong dream of mine is now realized," toasted Maupin. "If I die and go to heaven, I know it won't look like this."

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