Host David Foster and singer-actress Kristin Chenoweth perform onstage at “A PBS SoCal Holiday Celebration.”
By ELLEN OLIVIER
The event: “Onstage Backstage: A PBS SoCal Holiday Celebration with David Foster and Friends,” took place Thursday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, a dinner and show heralded as the public television station’s first major fundraiser in Los Angeles. PBS SoCal is now the primary PBS station for the greater Los Angeles area since 2011, when KOCE-TV took over the role under this new name.
The show: The 16-time Grammy-winning Foster — known as “Hit Man” from the PBS “Great Performances” series — welcomed an abundance of talents to the stage, among them Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds; Peter Cetera of the rock band Chicago; Peter Asher, formerly of the duo Peter and Gordon; master violinist Maga Zoltan; singer Brenna Whitaker; Telly the Television Monster from “Sesame Street”; and Kristin Chenoweth, who came to fame as Glinda in Broadway’s “Wicked.”
Before her first song, Chenoweth recalled her first live appearance as a rabbit in “The Nutcracker” — she had been deemed “too little to play a mouse.” She ended her segment by performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which, she pointed out, was first sung by another 4’11” singer, Judy Garland.
In addition to the musical entertainment, composer Alan Menken — known for his Academy Award-winning scores to Disney musicals — introduced an excerpt from the upcoming PBS special, “American Experience: Walt Disney.” And PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger introduced an eight-minute preview of Season 5 of “Downton Abbey” — “a little drama series that maybe a few of you have heard about,” as she put it. (Kerger said “Downton Abbey” has been the most-watched drama in PBS history.)
The dinner: Diners were surrounded by projections of snowflakes, lighted Christmas trees and arrangements of poinsettias, as the music continued in the Ray Dolby Ballroom. Here, Menken stole the show by playing a medley of his tunes from “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Pocahontas” and other animated Disney films.
The crowd: Guests included Eva and Marc Stern, Marybelle and S. Paul Musco, Roy Disney, Irena Medavoy, Anne Gates, Jenny Jones, Carolyn Powers, Don Hahn, Barbara Davis, Lauren King and from PBS SoCal, President and Chief Executive Mel Rogers; general manager and chief operating officer Andy Russell; and “Studio SoCal” co-host Rick Reiff.
Quote of note: In remarks to supporters, board chair Jim McCluney described the station’s enormous reach throughout Southern California and its “unrivaled content,” ticking off the widely varied offerings: “Antiques Roadshow, “ “Nova,” “Sesame Street,” “Frontline,” “Mr. Selfridge,” “Sherlock,” “Downton Abbey,” “Ken Burns: The Roosevelts” and many more.
“We’re the largest stage for the arts and the most trusted source of information in our community,” McCluney said. “We don’t just hold great parties. We also enrich people’s lives.”
The numbers: Although final results haven’t yet been tallied, show tickets alone cost a minimum of $75 for two. The 400 dinner guests paid from $1,000 each for tickets and as much as $100,000 for tables of 20.