Backstage at the Geffen with Host Jane Lynch

Matthew Morrison, Dana Delany, Helen Mirren, Andy Garcia, Joe Mantegna at Backstage at the Geffen with Host Jane Lynch, Honorees Carol Burnett and Jim Gianopulos


With Jane Lynch of GLEE hosting this year’s “Backstage at the Geffen,” and Jim Gianopulos and Carol Burnett as honorees, the Geffen Playhouse had already sold all 500+ seats in the theater without having to announce the names of any of the A-list stars scheduled to appear. (Click here to see more than 35 photos from the event.)

“You never know who will tell a story, who will perform and who will steal the show,” said the invitation for the June 4 fundraiser, and before the evening ended, the audience heard from such extraordinary talents as Dame Helen Mirren, Annette Bening, Andy Garcia, Joe Mantegna of “Criminal Minds,” Matthew Morrison of “Glee,” Dana Delany of “Body of Proof,” Beth Behrs of “Two Broke Girls,” singer Monica Mancini, former “Hollywood Square” Bruce Vilanch, and acclaimed jazz musician Arturo Sandoval.

Warren Beatty and Dick Van Dyke presented the awards in style; and although Gil Cates, the theater’s director, passed away in October, his presence permeated the event.

“He was remarkable – as a person, as a filmmaker and as a human being. Whenever he was in the room, the lights were just brighter,” said Gianopulos, at the Backyard Restaurant at the W Los Angeles in Westwood, where a cocktail reception and dinner took place poolside before the show. Recipient of the Distinction in Service Award, Gianopulos is co-chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment.

Lynch also spoke of Gates as the show began, reminding guests that Gates had been the event’s longtime emcee. “If you knew Gil, you would know that he wanted this show to go on,” she said. “The Geffen was his ‘raindrops on roses,’ his ‘whiskers on kittens,’ and now and forever ‘his favorite thing.’”

And indeed quite a show went on, as one by one, the stars shared their musical talents and backstage stories. Behrs sang, “Someone to watch over me;” Garcia described an encounter with Sean Connery – one of his heroes – while filming “The Untouchables.” Then Garcia joined Sandoval for a jazz number: Garcia on the bongos, Sandoval on trumpet. Mancini following, joining Sandoval for one of her father Henry Mancini’s compositions, “The Shadow of Your Smile.

Mirren talked of onstage nervous breakdowns; Bening described the Geffen’s arts education programs; Delany talked of her early theater experiences with a director who specialized in nude scenes; and Vilanch – 17-time head writer for the Academy Awards – told tales of working with Madonna, Barbra Streisand and Elizabeth Taylor.  

Lapsing into her TV persona, Sue Sylvester, Lynch introduced Morrison as “the man I love to torment,” saying she’d been “carrying” him on GLEE “for what seems like 100 years.”

“You see who’s hosting the Geffen Gala,” she said. As a proper and polite host, however, she recited his credits, including his starring musical theater roles in Hairspray,” “Light in the Piazza” and “South Pacific,” before adding, “I will never be friends with his hair.”

Morrison then belted out “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “Lady is a Tramp,” before his girlfriend Renee Puente further lit up the theater by joining him onstage to dance. (Adding to the GLEE vibe, Brad Ellis accompanied on piano.)

During Mantegna’s turn on stage, he talked about coming from Cicero, Illinois, where the most famous resident was Al Capone and where people either went to work in a steel mill, became a police officer, or got shot by a police officer. Then he discovered the theater, and concluded his story by saying, “Theater didn’t change my life – It gave me a life.”

As the awards ended the evening, Carol Burnett – honored with the Distinction in Theater Award – shared her own backstage story of how she got her start. On realizing she wasn’t qualified to be in the chorus, undaunted she said, “I’ll have to have a featured role.”

Frank Mancuso, the theater’s chairman of the board, thanked sponsors and announced that the event raised more than $1 million. The record-setting proceeds, earmarked for the theater’s artistic, education and outreach programs, came from tickets starting at $350 each, sponsorships and a silent auction.

Robert Iger, chair and chief executive of the Walt Disney Company and Willow Bay served as honorary co-chair with Dr. Judith Reichman as event chair and City National Bank as the title sponsor. Presenting sponsors included Audi, News Corporation and the Backyard at the W Los Angeles in Westwood; special thanks went to Twentieth Century Fox and other contributors were Los Angeles Magazine, Belvedere Vodka, Grad Marnier, Craft, Deluscious Cookies + Milk, Montage Beverly Hills, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Richard Ruskell Pastries, Ronen Levy Events, and Tribune Direct.

Click here to see more than 35 photos from Backstage at the Geffen with Jane Lynch


Top photo: Matthew Morrison of “Glee” at pre-event dinner for Backstage at the Geffen with host Jane Lynch

Center photo: Honorees Jim Gianopulos and Carol Burnett at pre-event dinner for Backstage at the Geffen with host Jane Lynch

Bottom photo: Beth Behrs with James Gancos, general manager of the W Los Angeles in Westwood, at the pre-event dinner for Backstage at the Geffen with host Jane Lynch

All photos this page by Jordan Strauss/Invision for the Geffen Playhouse



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Backstage at the Geffen with Jane Lynch

Published June 5, 2012 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA