Last night was the culmination of Act III, the three nights of performances that opened the AT&T Performing Arts Center. The finale was billed as “an evening of Broadway,” and it was topped off with a rocking party. First, the singing and dancing, then we’ll get to some pictures, including one of a celebrity who is my new best friend.
The fun started with Kiril Kulish spinning and flipping all over the stage. For my money, he dances better than he sings.
Next up was Kristin Chenoweth, who was simply amazing. She came out wearing a UT jersey, explaining that she was from Oklahoma and had lost a bet on the game. Her first song was “Popular,” from Wicked, which she told us she sang to Colt McCoy when she ran into him after the game. A great device. Then she took off the jersey — under which she was wearing a pick dress, alas — and proceeded to absolutely destroy the performance hall with her pipes. How that much sound comes out of such a tiny body is beyond me. She’s phenomenal. And funny.
George Hearn apparently just showed up to collect his paycheck. For his between-song interaction with the audience, he stared at the mic and waited for the horn section to empty its spit valves. That was it.
Patti LuPone was the headliner. She’s a diva (in a good way), and the audience loved her. But I think a lot of that reaction had to do with age. Let’s put it this way: I don’t think many in attendance last night have watched an episode of Sit Down, Shut Up, the animated show for which Chenoweth does a voice.
One final note about the hall: they’re still working out the kinks with the sound system that gave Sir Norman Foster problems earlier in the week. At one point, the mics had to be shut down mid-performance because of a nasty squeal from a feedback loop. Not good.
Okay, on to the pictures.
A red carpet greeted the black-tie crowd. Tickets for the entire Act III program of events started at $5,000. I saw Charles Wyly shortly after arriving. I wonder if they made him buy a ticket.
This was the first time I got to see the Winspear's retractable chandelier in full effect. Very cool. After the show, someone who was involved with its construction showed me pics on his iPhone of what the chandelier can REALLY do. Apparently this is top secret. But the thing can assume all sorts of shapes, and it can produce every color imaginable.
Last night was the first time they rolled up the glass walls of the Winspear. They were closed when everyone arrived, then opened as the show ended. While some of the women in slinky dresses were a little taken aback by the chill in the air as they entered the lobby from the performance hall, I thought it was magical.
Veletta Forsythe Lill and I were chatting just outside the Winspear when we spotted Spencer de Grey wandering around with a big smile on his face and a camera tethered to his wrist. He, of course, is Sir Norman Foster's design partner. He said he was thrilled with the way the Winspear has turned out. He also said that he found everyone in Dallas to be quite friendly and that he looks forward to returning.
Between the Winspear and the Wyly there loomed a massive food tent.
Catered by the Ritz, the menu featured pumpkin vichyssoise, glazed duck confit, buffalo shortrib with jalapeno grits, smoked salmon with corn crab and hominy stew mole chicken, and "aged mac n' cheese" with truffle Parmesan bread crumbs. I ate all of it.
After we'd filled our bellies, we headed into the Wyly for dancing (or, in my case, sitting). The Wyly also had its glass walls open.
Much has been made of the Wyly's flexible performance space. It also works for parties. The floor was raised up to one level, and the flying balconies had been flown away, up into the ceiling. Folks tapped their toes to the Ellis Hall Group.
In the lobby of the Winspear, I had seen a celebrity lookalike and said to my wife, "Hey, there's Sylar from Heroes. Don't let him steal your super power." To which she said, "That IS Sylar." Or, as his mother knows him, Zachary Quinto. So when I saw him in line for a drink at the Wyly, I walked up and said, "Alright, you have to let me take your picture." I held up my iPhone to do just that. Quinto took it from me like I was a dunce who'd never taken a picture of a celebrity before. He put his arm around me and pointed the phone at both of us -- even took the picture twice when the first one didn't work right. So yeah. I'd say we're friends now.
Finally, I’d like to say this about all that: a lot of hopes have been hung on the Performing Arts Center and the completion of the Arts District. The mayor has called it a “game changer.” It is going to draw people back to the city’s center. It’s going to put elevate Dallas on the world’s cultural stage. And so on. Only time will tell. But last night’s party was certainly a thing of wonder. Several people I talked to expressed a sense of awe, as if they were seeing Dallas — or a new version of it — for the first time. Of course, that could have been the booze talking, too.