Mike Strunsky, Gregory Boyd and Ken Ludwig at the Alley Theatre ball.

Photo by Dave Rossman for the Houston Chronicle


Alley Theatre's Gala, "An American In Paris" Glitters with Hollywood Glamour

May 14, 2008

If there were standing ovations for galas, Cynthia and Anthony Petrello would have received one Friday night for their spectacular Alley Theatre ball, "An American in Paris."

Just as previews of the Alley's new musical comedy The Gershwins' An American in Paris have been receiving high praise, rave reviews were garnered by the gala held in a vast warehouse south of downtown. But the setting was more Paris and moviedom than warehouse.

"We wanted our guests to feel like they were on a movie set in Hollywood," explained Cynthia, who with a history of professional dance and acting, knows a thing or two about stage and screen.

Guests were given the red-carpet treatment, their arrival captured on video and broadcast on flat screens throughout the party space. A line of sleek limos at the entrance — thank you Geo. H. Lewis & Sons — heralded the VIP contingent.

Once inside, the partying throng of 500 was surrounded by Parisian street scenes: Murals of that city's landmarks covered every wall, and a mini Eiffel Tower centered the reception area. Richard Flowers and his Events Co. team made the remarkable transformation of the space.

Key to the evening were playwright Ken Ludwig, who penned the Alley's new production, and Mike Strunsky, Ira Gershwin's nephew and trustee of the Gershwin estate. The evening honored Alley chairman emeritus Meredith Long for more than 40 years of service and leadership.

Icing on the cake was the performance by Frank Sinatra Jr. and an orchestra that included 10 of his people from New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The remaining 22 were musicians from the San Antonio, Fort Worth and Houston symphonies. Whew! With Gershwin and Sinatra favorites flowing from the bandstand, guests took to the dance floor with enthusiasm.

Adding to the ooh-la-la factor of the night were Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd, board chair Roger Plank and wife Connie, Alley managing director Dean Gladden and wife Janie, Lynn Wyatt with son Bradford Wyatt, Mindy and Jeff Hildebrand, Nancy and Rich Kinder, Kathryn and Jim Ketelsen, Lois and George Stark, Franci Crane and Karen and Harry Pinson

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