Saturday Night Alive 2019 (Denver Center for Performing Arts) Denver, CO

Article by Joanne Davidson

The 39th Saturday Night Alive was fun, profitable — and a historic occasion.

Vanessa Williams performs. “Saturday Night Alive,” benefiting Denver Center for the Performing Arts education programs, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Seawell Ballroom, in Denver, Colorado.Photo StevePeterson.

Fun because March 2 was a cold and snowy night and quite a few of the 700 guests had tales to tell about braving the elements in formal attire as they made their way to the the Denver Performing Arts Complex for this fundraiser highlighted by a performance by Vanessa Williams, whose vocal and acting skills have earned her nominations for Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards.

Profitable because the net proceeds came to $685,000 — money that will enable Allison Watrous, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ executive director of education, and her team to both continue and expand the DCPA’s arts education programs that to date have given 2.7 million Colorado school children a taste for live theater by attending plays, gaining technical knowledge, and staging productions of their own.

And historic because the $1,000-a-ticket gala was the last to be held in the Stage Theatre. Renovation of the 778-seat venue is part of a $36 million project that also includes upgrades to the adjoining Ricketson Theatre. When the Stage Theatre reopens in November 2020, it will bear the name of longtime benefactors Marvin and Judi Wolf. Work on the Ricketson Theatre begins in the spring of 2020 and is expected to take about a year to complete. It, too, is being renamed — in honor of DCPA trustee and former Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton.

Singleton and his sister, Pat Robinson, were among those attending Saturday Night Alive, joining a crowd that included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and first lady Mary Louise Lee; Martin Semple, chairman of the DCPA board of trustees, and his wife, JoAnn; University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp with hubby Fred Thibodeau; and Hassan Salem, who is chairing the capital campaign that is funding the renovations, and his wife, Sheila.

Semple lavished praise on the team that chaired Saturday Night Alive: Roberta and Matt Robinette; Lyn and Dr. Michael Schaffer; Wanda Colburn and Dick Havey; Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons and Jack Fitzgibbons.

“We have a larger leadership team than ever before,” he said, which resulted in an event that ran like clockwork and had a handsome financial return.
Vanessa Williams, whose Broadway career took off in 1994 when she replaced Chita Rivera in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” told her audience that she was “a proud example” of one who benefited from arts education.

“My parents were teachers and when I told them I wanted to major in musical theater, they said ‘Go for it,’ ” she said. “And here I am.”

Williams also has earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and co-authored the autobiographical “You Have No Idea,” which was a New York Times best-seller in 2012.

The festivities didn’t end with Williams’ last song. Afterward, guests returned to the Seawell Ballroom, where earlier in the evening they’d dined on beef tenderloin from Epicurean Catering, for a selection of desserts and dancing to the band Wash Park.

Janice Sinden, the DCPA’s president and chief executive officer, was among the late-nighters, joining such others as Justin and Shelly Klomp (he’s the president of Trice Jewelers, sponsor of the Surprise Box sale conducted during cocktail hour); Kristina Davidson; Kathie and Keith Finger; Faye and Dr. Reginald Washington; Tina Walls; artist Darrell Anderson and his wife, Shawnee; Patricia Baca; CBS4 anchor Jim Benemann, the evening’s master of ceremonies; Marcia and Dick Robinson; Liz Orr; and former Saturday Night Alive chairs Meredith and Roger Hutson, Gail and George Johnson, Margot Gilbert Frank, Claudia and Jim Miller, Lisa and Norm Franke and Judi and Bob Newman.

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