The Center for the Performing Arts annual gala will have quite a different format this year.
“All Together Now! 2021 Gala” will be presented as a free livestream at 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Palladium in Carmel. The presentation starts at 7:30 p.m with information about the auction items and videos with the live performance following.
The fundraising gala will feature Center Artistic Director Michael Feinstein and his piano trio, led by Musical Director Tedd Firth. Other appearances will be by New York City-based performer Melissa Schott, a chorus choreographed by Kenny Shepard and other special guests.
Arts philanthropists Frank Basile and Cheri Dick will serve as emcees.
“Because of the uncertainties of the pandemic at that point in time, we decided to go with virtual,” Center for the Performing Arts President/CEO Jeffrey McDermott said.
McDermott said the decision had to be made far in advance because Straight No Chaser was planned to be a headliner for a live event.
“We had a lot of other catering and deposits that had to be made that were nonrefundable, so we made the determination to go virtual,” McDermott said. “As we watched things improve, we had people ask if it was possible to go to a live event and it really wasn’t at that point. We decided to book Straight No Chaser for next year. It was too late to go back and put things in motion that needed to be put in motion months earlier.”
With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, McDermott said the decision looks like the right one.
“We did put together a hybrid event,” McDermott said. “There will still be no live audience. We are going to have ‘Our All Together Wow!’ VIP experience in the newly renovated Founders Club, where people can pay to attend a three-hour celebration.”
The VIP experience will have approximately 100 people, McDermott said. While the show is going on live in the Palladium, McDermott said guests can watch on monitors set up throughout the Founders Club and hallways.
After the performance, Feinstein and guests will join the audience for an after-party.
“We are taking advantage of the best of all worlds,” McDermott said. “Those that want to (can) be there as a paid VIP experience. Everyone else can watch the livestream free of charge.”
Livestreams with Feinstein in the past year have drawn large numbers from several nations.
“We really think it will show what we are doing at the Center and expose us to even more people to donate and bid on auction items,” McDermott said. “COVID has made us do a lot of things differently, and hopefully this will provide a good experience for everyone.”
Prior to 2020 when the gala was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Songbook Hall of Fame induction was part of the gala.
“We are looking at the format of that and whether it makes sense to continue to have it as part of our gala or break it off into something separate,” said McDermott, who also is president/CEO of the Great American Songbook Foundation. “There are pros and cons to both having it as part of this and having it as its own event.”
All funds raised through the event benefit the Looking Forward Fund, which supports the Center.
To register for the livestream or purchase VIP tickets, visit thecenterpresents.org/gala.