Porchlight Music Theatre’s Gala: What a Live Auction






Who could top this?


Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25 Anniversary Chairs Deann and Rick Bayless and Donna La Pietra and Bill Kurtis launched the new season and heralded the live auction at the recent ICONS gala in surely the most ingenious way.  The star-studded nights out included a guacamole class with Rick and a cocktail tutorial hosted by Deann’s and Rick’s daughter Lanie Bayless, followed by dinner at the family’s iconic Topolobampo; a dazzling dinner with Bill and Donna  before a taping of WBEZ’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me;” and Porchlight Board Member Steve McDonagh and his Hearty Boys Catering partner Dan Smith hosting a dinner prepared by them and featuring special desserts by Gale Gand and others.

(L to R) Porchlight Music Theatre 25th Anniversary Committee Chairs: Bill Kurtis, Donna La Pietra, Deann and Rick Bayless

Rick apologized for his pun in announcing he was there to “sing the praises of Porchlight MusicTheatre.” To capture the audience of 300’s auction attention, Donna and Bill played a game from “Wait Wait” to everyone’s delight with Bill singing his answers as he introduced each item. Auctioneer Greg Dellinger masterfully sold these arresting experiences.

L to R) Porchlight Music Theatre Young Professionals Committee Members: Becca Sheehan, Cody Czymr and Carolyn Isaac

The Gala Brunch at the Ritz Carleton, chaired by Tamara Sims, included performances from Chicago’s leading talents celebrating the legendary career of Jerome Robbins, and the presentation of the Luminary Award to Jean Klingenstein, steadfast supporter of Porchlight and other Chicago theaters. The tribute was naturally a musical, with multi-Jeff Award-winning Donica Lynn singing One from A Chorus Line with guests joining in the salute.

(L to R) Porchlight Music Theatre Executive Director Jeannie Lukow, 2018 Luminary Award Recipient Jim Jensen and 2019 Luminary Award Recipient Jean Klingenstein and Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Weber

Board Chair Keith Olenik and Vice Chair Tony Gibson welcomed guests and told about the company’s new season at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts as part of its Artists-in-Residence program.

(L to R) The Porchlight Music Theatre Board of Directors: Chuck Laff, William Gilmer, Jayne Drew, Sara Siegall, Brian Troy, Tony Gibson, James Jensen, Michelle Cucchiaro, Keith Olenik, Rhona Frazin, Steve McDonagh, and Tamara Sims

Being a Porchlight special event, music and performances took center stage with David Fiorello and the band performing Jerome Robbins-inspired numbers, and one of the stars of Porchlight’s recent hit A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder Andrés Enriquez was first to the day’s busy microphone. Executive Director Jeannie Lukow noted that Porchlight  now has the highest number of subscribers in its history and has expanded its educational programming in Chicago’s public schools.

(L to R) Husband and wife performer duo Shanna VanDerwerker and Justin Brill perform a number from the musical HIGH BUTTON SHOES, choreographed by Jerome Robbins

  Mark Kelly Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural and Special Events, reflected on The Year of Chicago Theatre and how Porchlight and its productions “reflect Chicago’s place as a performing arts leader on a global scale and is truly a national treasure.”

Throughout the brunch, Artistic Director Michael Weber spoke about Robbins’ storied life and career, including videos and photos of the many productions with which he was affiliated including On the Town, with stars of the upcoming A Chorus Line Clayton Cross, Richard Strimer and Matthew Weidenbener dancing and singing.


(L to R) Tricia Needham and “Madame Rose” E. Faye Butler of GYPSY from Porchlight Music Theatre 2018 -2019 season








For more about Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Season, visit porchlightmusictheatre.org


Photos by Michael Courier