|Jaden’s Ladder “Bright Lights, Big City” Black & White Gala, Saturday, April 14, 2012, Ritz-Carlton Hotel (L-R): Patrick Chung, New England Patriots safety; Oneta Bobbett, co-founder of Jaden’s Ladder; Chung’s fiancée, Cecelia Champion; and Coach Willie Maye, national radio and television personality.|
|Esperanza Spalding. (Photo courtesy of Montuno)|
|Season 2 American Idol winner Ruben Studdard (R) with guest, Marina Feliciano (L), at the gala. (Colette Greenstein photo)|
Celebrity guests, friends, volunteers and longtime supporters of Jaden’s Ladder — a nonprofit organization that assists survivors of domestic violence — came together to raise money for their fourth annual “Bright Lights, Big City Gala” at the Ritz-Carlton Boston.
It was a fabulous night filled with music by DJ Roy Barboza, celebrity guests, dancing, and auctions, both silent and live.
The night began with a VIP champagne reception featuring a live performance of aerial acrobatics from Nimble Arts, coupled with a warm and heartfelt greeting by Oneta Bobbett, the driving force behind Jaden’s Ladder — named after her son, Jaden. Bobbett, a domestic violence survivor, kept the focus of the gala on raising money for “her girls.”
Kicking off the main event was Ruben Studdard. He sang a few Luther songs, he explained, “cause it always makes my mama happy.”
The master of ceremonies was Coach Willie Maye. Supporting the work of Jaden’s Ladder were numerous guests including Boston Celtics legend JoJo White and his lovely wife, Deb; New England Patriot Patrick Chung; former Cleveland Cavalier and Golden State Warrior Dwight Davis; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas; NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk; Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Grogan; former Chicago Bulls player Charles Oakley; and former Boston Celtic Satch Sanders.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement by Bobbett. She told the crowd that due to their support, a home would be purchased for a Jaden’s Ladder family.
“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” is Blanche DuBois’ signature line. She utters it to the doctor who is leading her away in the play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” DuBois is played by Nicole Ari Parker, best known for her role as ‘Teri Joseph’ in the TV series “Soul Food.”
Playing Stanley to her Blanche is the terrific and multi-talented Blair Underwood, who truly transformed himself.
This was my first time seeing a Broadway production in Manhattan and I was ecstatic. Though it was intense and emotional, I really enjoyed it. I laughed, cried and felt their pain.
Tennessee Williams wrote this play 65 years ago and it is still timely. The performance was enhanced by the searing and haunting music composed by the extraordinary Terence Blanchard.
Also in the play are Daphne Rubin-Vega as Stella and Wood Harris as Harold Mitchell.
Opening night for “A Streetcar Named Desire” is April 22 at the Broadhurst Theatre. It’s definitely worth a trip to the city!
After the performance, I was emotionally spent, not to mention hungry. Since I was right in the heart of the Theater District, I did what any theatergoer would do. I had dinner at the famous Sardi’s Restaurant, which has been the toast of Broadway for 90 years.
I had hoped to interview jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding before her show later this month, but sadly that was not to be. But I was asked to review her album. After listening to her latest musical creation, “Radio Music Society,” there’s no doubt as to why she became the first jazz musician to win a Grammy for “Best New Artist” in 2011. The girl has got chops and then some.
This album is the follow up to her 2010 best-selling release “Chamber Music Society.” Spalding expands on the idea of “jazz-inspired-pop-radio music” combined with the soulfulness of Jill Scott and the “buttah sound” of Barbra Streisand.
“Radio Music Society” appeals to new jazz listeners as well as jazz aficionados. The opening track “Radio Song” breezily introduces you to Esperanza. She wins you over immediately with the lightness and sweetness in her voice.
From there she leads you into the jazzy “Cinnamon Tree” that was written to cheer up a friend and celebrates platonic love. One of the highlights on the album, “Black Gold,” is a love song to young boys of color.
Spalding takes you on a musical journey that opens your heart to the possibilities of love, music and even friendship. From the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It” and Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species” (featuring Lalah Hathaway) to the “City of Roses” (co-produced by Q-Tip,” Esperanza easily spreads her magic with this album. “Radio Music Society” is a must for your collection.
Esperanza Spalding performs at the Berklee Performance Center on April 22 at 8 p.m.
On April 19, Company One hosts its “C1 Gala XIII” at the The Cyclorama at the BCA. It’s a night of live art and music, dancing, dinner and drinks to benefit Company One. There’ll be tasty treats from Noche, Bambara, Flatiron Tapas, The Middle East Restaurant, J.P. Licks and more. Tickets are still available at www.CompanyOne.com/Gala.
R&B loverman Keith Sweat headlines Showcase Live at Patriot Place in Foxboro at 8 p.m. on April 20.
“Sax-man” Elan Trotman returns to Scullers Jazz Club with special guest Brian Simpson on April 24 for one show at 8 p.m.
The award-winning Broadway musical FELA! comes to Cutler Majestic Theatre April 24 - May 6. Tickets available at www.artsemerson.org.
On Sunday, April 29, the Haley House Bakery Café presents “A Sweeter Life Dessert Fundraiser,” 3-5 p.m. with some of Boston’s finest dessert chefs showcasing their signature treats. Proceeds will benefit Haley House’s Transitional Employment Program that supports individuals transitioning from incarceration.
The featured chefs include Flour Bakery’s Joanne Chang, Finale’s Nicole Cody, Sofra Bakery’s Maura Kilpatrick, L’Espalier’s Jiho Kim, Chocolee Chocolate’s Lee Napoli, Toscanini’s Gus Rancatore, and the Met Club’s Elaine Stella.
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