San Francisco Social Diary: More Spring Events

A fairytale gala kicked off choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella ballet, which opened to rave reviews in San Francisco and next heads to New York’s Lincoln Center.


The San Francisco Ballet closed its 2013 season with a gala event for the U.S. premiere of British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella.

A collaboration between the San Francisco Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, the performance was based on the classic folktale with a score by Sergei Prokofiev. It included huge puppets, sets that incorporated video, and costumes by Julian Crouch, whose credits include operas and the Broadway musical The Addams Family.

Wheeldon, who joined the prestigious New York City Ballet corps at 19, began choreographing for the company at 23. He’s won several awards for his work for them and other eminent companies. In 2007, he and dancer Lourdes Lopez co-founded the NYC and London-based ballet company Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company.

Amy Burnett, Stephanie Ejabat, dinner chair Shelby Gans, Suzy Kellems Dominik, Kelli Burrill, Sandy Katzman, Karen Sonneborn, and Elizabeth Fullerton.

Gala co-chair Stephanie Ejabat, designer Riccardo Benavides, and co-chair Suzy Kellems Dominik.


The sold-out evening began with a cocktail reception in the War Memorial Opera House, followed by dinner catered by McCall’s in a gorgeous tented pavilion designed by Riccardo Benavides, creative director of Ideas.

Ballet-goers dressed in a romantic and royal mood, many of the ladies showing off bright, feminine frocks and a few completing the fairytale look with tiaras.

Deepa Pakianathan.

Christopher Wheeldon and Patricia Kelly.

Rosemary Baker with David and Susan Dossetter.

Patrick King and Carolyn Chang.

Gary and O.J. Shansby with Alan Morrell.

Christine Suppes.

Lily Samii, Jacques Pantazes, and Elizabeth Bruckmann.

Moanalani Jeffrey and Scott Marlowe.

SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson and his wife Marlene.

Naomi Sobel and Denise Littlefield Sobel.

Randy Hynote and Adrienne Mally.

Robert Mailer Anderson with Charlotte and George Shultz.

Kat Taylor and Tom Steyer.

Robert Mailer Anderson and Nicola Miner.

Rosemary Baker, Karen Caldwell, Tanya Powell, and Betsy Linder.

George and Ann Mauze, Donald Van de Mark, and Alison and Michael Mauze.

Jorge Maumer and Carolyn Chandler.

Edward and Jennifer Lee.

Marlene and Jim Sullivan.

Rachel Brass and Richard Foster.

Patricia Ferrin Loucks and Charlie Loucks.

Richard Barker and Sharon Seto.

Jim and Sandy Katzman with Lina and Lawrence Lam.

After cocktails, guests were led through a gateway flanked by ornate mirrors and oversized candles and past a breathtaking life-size moss-covered carriage pulled by topiary horses under a twinkling tree of crystal cherry blossoms.

Christina deLimur, Tanya Powell, and Patricia Ferrin Loucks.

Bandel and Paula Carano.

Sloan Barnett and Allison Speer.

Kate Harbin Clammer, Alex Chases, and Erin Glenn.

Joy Venturini Bianchi and Alan Morrell.

The sparkling look and romantic feel of the cocktail hour carried over into the Riccardo Benavides-designed dinner tent, which was highlighted by pink uplighting and more than 40 low-hanging crystal chandeliers fit for a castle.

A twinkling 20-foot faux oak tree in the center of the tent suggested an enchanted forest, with life-size topiary fairy godmothers clad in pastel gowns of pink and green roses standing sentry in corners and on tabletops.

Striking centerpieces with clocks and mushrooms referenced Alice in Wonderland, and owls, cabbages, and moss baby bunnies hidden in floral arrangements were a nod to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The merger of childhood fantasy and grown-up glamor was magical.


After the performance, party guests returned to the tent, where they enjoyed drinks and dessert and music from DJ Clouse.

Edward King and Justin Fichelson.

Kirsten Skipper, Kevin O’Connor, and Marybeth LaMotte.

Patrons mingled with the young after-party additions, and the presence of some cast members on the dance floor made the event even more theatrical.

SF Ballet principal dancers Jaime Garcia and Frances Chung with Chris Kazaks and Makiko Harris.

Corps de Ballet members Myles Thatcher and Madison Keesler.

Gus and Martha Spanos.

Bill and Jennifer Brandenburg.

Elaine and David Shun.

Rufus Olivier and Kimberly Braylock.

Kay Links and Parker Kunz.

Hooman Khalili and Brianna Anthony.

At the stroke of midnight, the royal ball became fairytale history.


This fall, the San Francisco Ballet is bringing Wheeldon’s Cinderella to the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center (formerly the NY City Ballet) October 23–27.


A week before the San Francisco Ballet premiered Cinderella, the Auxiliary produced its 32nd annual fashion show and fundraiser featuring American designer Zac Posen’s 2013 fall collection, sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue for the last 16 years.

Honorary Chair O. J. Shansby, Fashion Show Chair Claire Stewart Kostic, and Luncheon Chair Patricia Ferrin Loucks welcomed more than 500 guests to the late morning cocktail reception followed by a luncheon and live auction and raffle. Actress Jane Seymour was a special guest, and the benefactor party host was Jacqueline Sacks.

It’s fitting to have a “ladies’” luncheon in the legendary Fairmont Hotel, as it was designed and decorated by women: Julian Morgan redesigned the building in 1906 after earthquake damage, and at one time decorator Dorothy Draper redesigned the interior, though it has since been redecorated.

The Fairmont San Francisco is a member of the National Register of Historic Places.

The hotel and its luxurious lobby have been featured in numerous films, including Petulia and The Rock.

The Fairmont’s doorman William seems to know all the locals.

Fans of Zac Posen.

Jennifer Brandenburg, Fashion Show Chair Claire Kostic, and Luncheon Chair Patricia Ferrin Loucks.

Rhea Friend, Honorary Chair O.J. Shansby, and Barbara Brookins-Schneider.

Urannia Ristow, Barbara Brookins-Schneider, and Jeanne Lawrence.

Sally Debenham and Joy Bianchi.

Actress and former ballet dancer Jane Seymour.

Yurie Pascarella and Urannia Ristow.

The fashion show, the day’s major draw, featured a collection of elegant and feminine suiting as well as dramatic dresses and gowns, all in warm colors (with the occasional jewel tone thrown in) and all of course displaying Zac’s signature craftsmanship.

Cheryl Fordham, Zac Posen, and Claire Kostic.

After the show, many of the gals headed down to Saks at Union Square to have Zac help them with their fall season wardrobe. Me, I’m still trying to get my spring wardrobe together.

The live auction featured some unique and tantalizing items, among them lunch with actress Jane Seymour at her studio in Malibu, a special dinner at the Walt Disney Family Museum with his daughter Diane Disney Miller, and an invitation to attend Peter Mondavi Sr.’s 99th birthday gala at Charles Krug Winery.

Lisa Goldman and Mary Beth Shimmon.

Susan Dunlevy, Allison Speer, Sloan Barnett, and Angelique Griepp.

Paula Carano and Komal Shah.

Deann Spaulding and Lorna Meyer.

Carole McNeil and Diane Chapman.

Shelby Strudwick and Jane Burkhard.


It’s going to be a busy fall for Ideas Creative Director Riccardo Benavides, the talented event planner responsible for the Cinderella party here and in New York in the fall. He has opened a Manhattan branch of his firm, Ideas, and will design the décor for the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal Gala benefit, hosted by Oscar de la Renta at the Waldorf-Astoria.

While Riccardo was in New York, I invited him to join me at the star-studded 79th annual Drama League Awards luncheon, hosted this year by actors David Hyde Pierce and Debra Messing. As a former Drama League board member, I never miss this very special event as it can only happen in New York City as Broadway is here.

The annual Drama League Awards luncheon honors those in the theater community.

Actors Debra Messing and David Hyde Pierce hosted the Drama League Awards luncheon.

Bernadette Peters, winner of the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater award.

Every table in the Marriott Marquis Times Square ballroom was filled with theater-lovers.

The nominated performers, directors, and producers from both Broadway and Off-Broadway all sit on the stage and get a chance to say something to the audience. It’s a wonderful way to meet the stars and keep abreast of what shows are current and which performers are in town.

At the Drama League Luncheon, the nominated stars of Broadway and Off-Broadway sit on the stage for all to see.

Each nominee stands up and shares their thoughts, wisdom, dreams, and humor.

Audience members determine who receive the awards, which are the oldest theatrical honors in America. The award categories include best play, best musical, best revival, acting, directing, distinguished achievement, and “unique contribution to the theatre.”

Riccardo met a few of his favorite performers, including actor Nathan Lane, who took the Distinguished Performance Award for his role in The Nance. Nathan, who described himself as “a sassy fellow,” was speechless when he accepted the award—probably for the first time ever.

Nathan Lane humbly accepted the Distinguished Performance Award for his role in The Nance.

San Francisco’s Riccardo Benavides and Jeanne Lawrence.

Riccardo Benavides with actor Tommy Tune, multiple Tony Award-winner.

Jeanne Lawrence, Cece Black, and San Diego’s Paula Black.


Photos by Jeanne Lawrence, Drew Altizer, and Jessica Fallon Gordon.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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