Lights – Camera – Auction & Song: Centaur stages scintillating benefit soirée

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by Naomi Gold

Old Montreal’s 46-year-old Centaur Theatre illuminated in spectacular fashion for its 11th annual fundraising gala. As torrential rains engulfed the city, supporters arrived with ark-loads of party cheer and posed for red carpet photos in a sheltered booth.

Theatre Luminaries from left to right: Centaur board chair Howard Golberg; Artistic director Roy Surette; gala honouree Dennis Sharp; Jackie Richardson, gala star; RBC’s Michael Palermo; Centaur founder Maurice Podbrey

A festive dînatoire featured freshly shucked PEI oysters in a sea of savory eats, that were served with smooth SAQ spirits. Some 200 revellers also bid on lots of lavish silent auction loot, which ranged from hockey memorabilia to luxury vacation packages, including an exotic African safari.

Artistic director Roy Surette entered stage right and welcomed all before introducing municipal culture councillor and ex-Segal Centre director Manon Gauthier. She lauded Centaur’s success and importance in Montreal’s cultural scene, adding, “we were never in competition with one another.” Gala chair Tony Loffreda bowed out due to business commitments, but dispatched RBC understudy Michael Palermo, who saluted the theatre’s board chair, Howard Golberg.

Luminous luminary Dennis Sharp was honoured for his longstanding support and urged all to be generous with their bids, “my wife says we won the auction, while I prefer to view it as an expenditure,” he joked. Assuming auctioneering duties was CJAD’s afternoon announcer, Aaron Rand, who conducted sans baton. His wryly sarcastic obbligato—uttered and muttered throughout the vaudevillesque auction—propelled one theatregoer into bidding euphoria. He quipped, “Did you put your hand down at all?” Coveted cruises netted thousands and a private Bowser & Blue performance chez vous launched a bona fide bidding war, as Rand happily separated many from their money. The denouement proceeded with Luminous’s main event.

Centaur’s stage ignited with sultry jazz sensation Jackie (mom of Kim) Richardson. Currently starring in The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, the jubilant Richardson and her band wowed spectators with a polyphony of genres. Her act was interspersed with over-the-top, “into-the-crowd” forays, along with an audience singalong, which delighted fans. Richardson’s set segued perfectly into the soirée’s final act.

Decadently delicious desserts thoroughly satiated guests as they eagerly anticipated the icing on Luminous’s cake: the announcement of funds raised. With $182,000 generated and (great) expectations exceeded, buoyant fans collected their auction expenditures, er, winnings, and floated home.

Centaur Theatre’s production of Djanet Sears’ play ran until October 18th. It was the largest in their history, featuring a 22-member cast, including singer-dancers who metamorphose into the landscape itself. It is followed by Nicolas Billon’s spellbinding thriller, Butcher, on November 3rd.; 514-288-3161.


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