Worlds were colliding for me last weekend when my wife and I enjoyed an evening out at a work event -- the Brilliance at the Bankhead.
Headlined by Tony and Emmy winner Jason Alexander, whose performance featured an eclectic collection of Broadway songs interspersed among personal anecdotes, the gala also included drinks, dinner and music in the Madden Courtyard before the live auction and stage show inside the Bankhead Theater – all as part of the major annual fundraiser for Livermore Valley Arts.
It was a record-setting night for LVA, the nonprofit that operates the Bankhead and the Bothwell Arts Center. The most tickets sold ever (452), plus another impressive donation total of more than $500,000.
"Last Saturday's Gala Fundraiser starring Jason Alexander has proven to be a landmark moment in Livermore Valley Arts history," LVA Executive Director Chris Carter told the Weekly afterward.
"Not only did this iconic comedy legend impress Livermore with his musical prowess, the nearly sold-out event also raised over half a million dollars for arts education in the Tri-Valley. This community support, and right before National Arts in Education Week no less, is clearly a promising sign for ensuring Livermore Valley Arts continues to be the heart of a vibrant cultural arts community," he added.
It really was inspiring to see the community come out in support of a shared love and dedication for local arts programs. As for the evening's entertainment, well, Alexander had us in the palm of his hand.
An actor who's most recognizable for his legendary role as George Costanza on "Seinfeld", but whose roots (and in many ways, heart) lie on Broadway, Alexander joked, sang and danced the audience through his personal bio and stage career – all while accompanied by the Livermore-Amador Symphony directed by Lara Webber.
He performed numbers from musicals that changed his life as a youngster growing up in New Jersey, "The Music Man" and "Pippin", Billy Joel hits later used in the musical "Movin' Out", and songs from two of his early, lesser-known Broadway credits – "Merrily We Roll Along" by Steven Sondheim, which closed after just two weeks, and "The Rink", which starred Liza Minelli and Chita Rivera. Plus a lively comedic medley of other musical favorites as the finale.
As we learned that night, Alexander's talent extends well beyond just being "an international comedy superstar and television icon ... from the '90s," as he described himself multiple times, tongue in cheek. Of course, that alone is a pretty good line item on the career resume.
If you missed the chance to see a big name at the Bankhead last weekend, don't worry ... be happy (god, that's awful; forgive me) looking at the schedule over the coming weeks.
Bobby McFerrin, best known for his a cappella Grammy-winning hit (see sentence above, the author says with a wry grin of shame), is performing this Saturday afternoon at the Bankhead. McFerrin's "Motion" concert follows Five for Fighting onstage the night before. And the Pacific Chamber Orchestra is playing this Sunday afternoon.
Before this Friday's Five for Fighting concert, Livermore Valley Arts will be hosting a "Teacher Appreciation Evening" in the Madden Courtyard outside the theater in celebration of National Arts in Education Week.
Also on the Bankhead events calendar: "An Evening with Amy Sedaris" is next Friday (Sept. 22), "An Evening with Kari Byron - Crash Test Girl" is Sept. 28 as part of the Rae Dorough Speaker Series, "When You Wish Upon a Star: A Jazz Tribute to 100 Years of Disney) is Sept. 29 and The Righteous Brothers have two shows, Oct. 11 and 12.
Livermore Valley Opera is performing "Of Mice and Men" on weekends Oct. 7-15. Community celebrations abound too, with Indigenous People's Day next Friday (Sept. 23), Taste of Africa (Oct. 7), Filipino Barrio Fiesta (Oct. 8), "Lumpia with a Vengeance" (Oct. 9) and ArtWalk Livermore (Oct. 14).
The San Francisco Comedy Competition arrives next Thursday (Sept. 21) and Funny Women of Certain Age is Oct. 6.
And on a more serious note, a screening of the documentary "Look at Me Now: Stories of Hope" by local mental health support and suicide prevention nonprofit Z-Cares Foundation will take place on Sept. 27.
LVA also announced just last week four additions to their 2023-24 season schedule, with tickets on sale as of this week: Irish Christmas in America on Dec. 3, Pink Martini featuring China Forbes on Dec. 11, comedian Kevin Nealon on Jan. 26 and ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo on Jan. 29.
What a lineup.