Featuring: Entertainment by Hillbarn Stars, live auction with Jerry Hill, BRAVO! tribute to Alan Hafter and Lori Silverstein
When: 6 p.m. November 5, 2016
Where: Peninsula Temple Shalom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame, California
for the sake of Hillbarn Theatre
Situated just a stone's throw from the Bay, Foster City's Hillbarn Theatre has been a fixture on the peninsula for 75 years. Its gala fundraising event on November 5, Wish Upon A Star BRAVO! 2016, showed why it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of those who appreciate live theater.
The event was held atPeninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, a wonderful venue rebuilt for the 21st century. Personally, I nearly didn't make it to 2017 after downing a gin & tonic large enough to sink the Titanic. And it wasn't all ice.
During the cocktail hour I had the pleasure of chatting with Linda Yelnick, a Hillbarn supporter for more than 20 years. She shared tales of the old days where patrons had the comfort of actual airline seats, and a constant stream of coffee was used as bribery to keep them there. But just to be clear, I don't think Ms. Yelnick was actually present that far back.
One of Hillbarn's major and long-time supporters with whom I had the pleasure of talking was none other than T. Jack Foster Jr. (88 years young, he informed me), son of the original Mr Foster, on whose land Foster City is built. Mr. and Mrs. Foster try to get to most shows at Hillbarn, he said, and particularly enjoyed the recent "A Few Good Men." Foster told me that he was no stranger to the boards himself, having had a number of roles in variety performances back in the day.
Tom Miller, U.S. Army ret., also enjoyed "A Few Good Men," even though it was about a different branch of the service. "They do things differently in the Marines," he told me.
Pierre Buljan was there in support of his wife Liz, who with Christine Krolik was one of the event organizers. A bit of a family affair, as son Alex Buljan put on his pocket protector for his role as Bravo Tech Coordinator.
There were a number of Hillbarn alumni suitably dressed for the occasion. Eric Ribeiro, as the Mad Hatter, and Kay (Kiki) Arnado as Alice in Wonderland, to name but two. Arnado has acted with Hillbarn for more than 50 years, including roles in "Mame," "Sweeney Todd," and "Fiddler on the Roof." She can count her presence in eight individual productions of "Fiddler" over that time. Probably knows it fairly well by now.
We then repaired to the main hall, where we found our tables for dinner, each of which had been decorated in the theme of a Disney movie. Our table was "Alice in Wonderland," superbly decorated by Mary Price Moore and Nicole Martin. (Thanks for the hat, Mary!) Other tables covered movies from "Snow White" and "Jungle Book" to "Frozen" and "Toy Story." Excellent buffet dinner was provided by Four Seasons Catering.
The entertainment started with a lovely rendition of "Be Our Guest" from "Beauty and the Beast," sung lustily by the Hillbarn Conservatory Kids: Jack Barrett, Joseph Gloss, Charlotte Kehrberg, Katie Maupin and Matias Pollan. Jim Ambler and Caitlin McGinty gave a spirited version of "Jolly Holiday" from the upcoming Hillbarn production of "Mary Poppins."
I had a chance to chat with State Senator Jerry Hill, who lamented the stripping of funding of arts education from public schools and agreed with me that music and the performing arts were just as important to a rounded education as science and sports. Thus, organizations such as Hillbarn are vital to the community. Senator Hill then did a wonderful job of running the live auction. Useful to have a backup skill if the political thing doesn't work out, Senator. Auction items ranged from front-row tickets to the Warriors to a family package for four to Disneyland and a one-week stay in the Presidential Suite at the luxurious Hacienda Encantada resort in Cabo San Lucas.
Over dessert (crème brûlée yummy), we were treated to some more entertainment as Hillbarn Executive Artistic Director Dan Demers gave a rousing version of "Out There" from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," and we all flew back to our childhoods with Jim Ambler and Caitlin McGinty's "Let's Go Fly A Kite" from Hillbarn's upcoming "Mary Poppins."
The close of the evening was the honoring of the Bravo! 2016 Award winners, Lori Silverstein and Alan Hafter. Silverstein, Chief Beauty Officer of Peninsula Beauty, served on Hillbarn's Board of Directors for six years and is now a member of the Emeritus Committee. Silverstein grew her family's single store beauty supply business to 13 stores throughout the Bay Area and a thriving internet business. But she has always had a passion for the performing arts, to which she was exposed by both her parents and grandparents as she grew up in San Francisco, and is proud to support Hillbarn's efforts.
Hafter has seen Hillbarn Theater from two different angles. As a performer he took roles in productions of "Fiddler on the Roof," "Ragtime" and "1776," to name just a few. But for the last 15 years he has run the Hillbarn Box Office, the beating heart of the theater's productions. He spent 30 years as a dentist in San Bruno, where he would play music from Broadway shows to his patients.
The gala evening raised more than $100,000 to support Hillbarn Theatre and its community arts initiatives throughout the Bay Area.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org