The Music Center’s 50th Anniversary Spectacular

Condensing 50 years of art in one night made Edward James Olmos cry


There was extra buzz Saturday night on the red carpet outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center before the curtain rose on their 50th Anniversary Spectacular. Board Chair Lisa Specht summed up why everyone was so jazzed. “We are making history tonight,” she said. “There will be many firsts about this gala. It will be the first time that we have all of the resident companies on one stage performing, and it will be the first time that by simulcast we will have playing at Disney Hall—The Phil with Dudamel being projected on a screen—and an incredible dance performance by LA Dance with a newly choreographed piece.”

And that was just the first hour. The almost three hour Music Center history lesson got actor Edward James Olmos choked up when he took to the stage. Olmos won acclaim as El Pachuco in Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez on the Mark Taper Forum stage in ’78 and thanked all assembled for taking a chance on the play and the role it played in advancing the lives of Chicanos and Latinos. Gustavo Dudamel came on the big screen from across the street at Disney Hall, and as he took the podium he gave voice to a few nervous thoughts. “We’re trying something,” he said in reference to the simulcast with the dancers on the Dorothy Chandler stage. “I hope it works!” (It did.) My faves from the show included the newsreels from the ’60s and ’70s about the Music Center. Performance-wise, I loved the Master Chorale and mezzo soprano Susan Graham. Her rendition of “La Vie En Rose” was sublime.

At the gala afterwards, many of the Blue Ribbon ladies (the legendary Music Center volunteers who have raised over $72 million to date) were easy to spot as many chose red evening gowns. Dinner began at 11ish (Did I mention it was a loooong show?) and went late into the night in celebration of the Center’s remarkable accomplishment dreamed up by Dorothy Buffum Chandler all those years ago. While it was terrific to celebrate the past, I can’t wait for the shows I am going to see in the future, especially Angela Lansbury in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, premiering this week at the Ahmanson.