Theater & Dance
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"

What: Fund-raising gala
For: Palo Alto Players
Honorees: Connie and the David Faussone
Featuring: Nick Kenrick and other surprise performers from Palo Alto Players shows; and wine, dinner, auctions
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, March 24, 2018
Where: Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Tickets: Early bird ticket (before March 16): $125 ($50 tax deductible); Early bird table of 10 (before March 16): $1,250 ($500 tax deductible). March 16 and after, $150 per seat, $1,500 for table of 10. Call 650-329-0891 or visit

Nick Kenrick
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Nick Kenrick is terrific as Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet" as staged by Palo Alto Players, including in his high-powered piano playing. He's expected to perform at the Players gala benefit on March 24, 2018.
A whole lot of shakin'
— and fun — to be going on
Palo Alto Players third gala benefit planned
for March 24 will feature surprise performers from shows
March 15, 2018

Maybe the third most important thing to know about the third Palo Alto Players gala, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" is that it has nothing to do with the Oscar-winning 1967 movie that starred Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Instead, it has to do with "The Man Who Came To Dinner," a hilarious 1939 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that Palo Alto Players is producing to open in June. (I've never seen the play, but I've seen the 1942 movie based on it, and it was hilarious and delightful.)

Maybe the second most important thing to know about the gala is that the hint on the invitations — "We can't tell you who will be performing at this year's gala, but we can promise you there will be a "whole lotta shakin' goin' on!" — is clearly an indicator that Nick Kenrick, who was fabulous as Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet" for the Players in September, will be there.

Elizabeth Santana
Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Santana is managing director of Palo Alto Players.

This is the third Players fund-raising gala, and the first two both offered fine performances by people who had performed in past shows — Todd Wright was part of recreating "Ten Nights in a Bar Room" at the 2016 gala, and Jessica Whittemore sang "If I Were A Bell," from "Guys and Dolls." At the 2017 gala, Izetta Klein recreated the witch from "Into the Woods," and Michael Reed was on hand as the Monster from "Young Frankenstein." (There were many other performers at both galas.)

But a chance to see Kenrick as Jerry Lee Lewis again is worth the price of admission on its own. He's a fabulous singer, actor and piano player who thrilled the audience for "Million Dollar Quartet," doing almost everything the real Jerry Lee Lewis did, short of lighting the piano on fire with gasoline (which may not be a true story anyway).

But maybe the most important thing about the gala is that it will help raise money for Palo Alto Players, which besides being the oldest theater company on the San Francisco Peninsula, has been growing in the excellence of its productions.

The management team of Elizabeth Santana, Patrick Klein and Andrew Kracht have significantly improved the Players' programming and productions. The Players continues to be community based, with its casts composed of San Francisco Bay Area performers, but many of its shows over the last few years have truly excelled.

"For one night," said Santana in a recent interview, "talent, audiences, community leaders, will celebrate the arts, give back to the arts in the community. It's to ensure that we can produce our extraordinary season as planned.

"Ticket sales only cover about 60 percent of our operating costs. We look to generous donors to bridge that gap.

"Also, it's a fun party."

— Advertising —

The fun party is to begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto, which Santana calls "a beautiful facility."

It will be the gala's second appearance at Mitchell Park; the first gala was in the community room at the Lucie Stern Center in Palo Alto, just a few feet from the theater that is the Players' home.

There will be wine, hors d'oeuvres and — we expect — charming conversation in the courtyard, followed by a silent auction in the facility's Adobe Room.

"We have some great items," said Santana, including theater tickets, staycations, a tour of San Francisco's China Town, and lots of prizes from local business.

"We see this as an opportunity to help local businesses get some visibility and awareness," said Santana.

Then, into the ballroom for entertainment by Palo Alto Players performers, a live auction, a buffet dinner catered by Modern Taste, and — something new for the Players — a dessert dash, wherein individual tables compete for the rights to first dibs on desserts. "We have a beautiful cake from Draegers," said Santana, and desserts from Palo Alto Creamery, a variety of local bakeries, and Krispy Kreme Donuts. Not to mention treats from some Players staff and board members.

The gala will also honor the Players "Leading Player Honorees," Connie and the late David Faussone. The Faussones "have been very generous donors and subscribers to Players for over 25 years," Santana said. They got involved through Peninsula Center Stage, which the Players once operated at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City. A Fausonne daughter, Julia, was cast in "Annie" at the Fox, and David was FDR.

David Fausonne died in April. Julia will be singing at the gala.

"The 'Million Dollar Quartet' has continued," Santana pointed out. "They forged this wonderful bond that has continued since curtain came down. Jaake Margo (who played Elvis) has a band, and they did a tour, and Nick (Kenrick) and Tarif Pappu (who played Carl Perkins) went with them.

"We have so much great talent in the Bay Area. We're here as the platform. It's a big reason why we have these fundraisers, to continue to be that outlet for creative expression."

Email John Orr at

Connie, David Faussone
Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
Connie and David Faussone are to be honored at Palo Alto Players' 2018 gala. David Faussone died in April 2017.