Philadelphia Academy of Music Hosts Memorable Concert and Ball

No, the award-winning actor and star of Broadway and film, Hugh Jackman, is not Jewish, as far as we know, but we could not resist including him, backed up by maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin, on the stage of the Academy of Music.

— article and all photos by Bonnie Squires

When the Academy of Music and The Philadelphia Orchestra held their annual Concert and Ball on Saturday, January 26, 2013, Jewish philanthropists and supporters of the arts were prominent on the scene. Their businesses, corporations, and family foundations were listed and depicted in the gorgeous program journal, where charities, schools, colleges, and other worthwhile community endeavors are photographed and sponsored.

The volunteers and executives in charge of the mammoth event were far-seeing enough to have booked Hugh Jackman as the main talent far in advance of his nominations for his role in “Les Miserables,” for the Golden Globe award (which he won), the SAG award and the Academy Award. Jackman’s energy and passion in rendering numbers from shows he has performed in, like “Carousel,” as well as his role as Jean Valjean, inspired maestroYannick Nezet-Seguin and the orchestra to match Jackman’s verve.

More after the jump.

(left to right) Dianne Rotwitt, PA First Lady Susan Corbett, and Diane’s husband Jeff Rotwitt, Esq., at the President’s Reception preceding the Philadelphia Orchestra concert.

At one point, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, in bright red jackets, came on stage to sing background for Jackman. He also treated the audience to the sight of his seven-year-old daughter coming out on stage, offering a silver platter with a Philly cheesesteak on it.

Even the First Lady of Pennsylvania, Susan Corbett, got in the act when Jackman danced over to her VIP box, twirled her around while he sand “Mack the Knife,” and then planted a kiss on her cheek, to the cheers of the audience.

As you turn the pages of the program journal, a prized coffee table publication, you come across many Jewish names. There were so many hundreds of people at all the various venues of the event that I only got to capture a few dozen in photos. Others were spotted across a crowded dance floor at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, being serenaded by the Eddie Bruce Orchestra (18 members strong).

Marjorie and Peter Ochroch raved about Hugh Jackman and maestro Yannick.

Nancy and Ken Davis were among the many hundreds of delighted supporters of the Academy of Music and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The spirit and generosity of the late Ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wife Leonore hovered over the entire event, from start to finish, with the restored chandelier and the renovated ballroom, beneficiaries of the Annenbergs vision and philanthropy.

Just as they did for the Barnes Foundation opening, the Jewish community showed strong support for the Academy of Music and The Philadelphia Orchestra, emphasizing the theme of this year’s event: “Celebrating New Beginnings.”

Delighted with the 156th Anniversary Concert and Ball  and the huge turn-out are (left to right) Carl and Roberta Dranoff with Terese and Senator Bob Casey.

The Zuritsky Family joined in the “Celebrating New Beginnings” event which ended up at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue for dinner and dancing.  Here we see (left to right) Robert Zuritsky, CEO of the Parkway Corporation, with his wife Caroline, his mother Renee and father and founder of the firm, Joe Zuritsky.

Steve and Julia Harmelin  represented Steve’s law firm, Dilworth Paxson, which was one of the Major Sponsors of the evening.

(left to right) Joe Kluger and his wife Susan Lewis, a cultural arts reporter for WRTI-FM, joined Vada and Dave Conant at the gala.  Conant is general manager of Temple University’s WRTI-FM station.

Jeanette Lerman Neubauer and her husband Joe Neubauer,  Prime Sponsors of the Academy Concert and Ball,  greeted their friend Barbara Eberlein at the President’s Reception.

Bill and Lizzie Rubin joined Bill’s parents, Marcia and Ron Rubin, Benefactors of the event.


Film Chat: Les Misérables

— by Hannah Lee

I’ve never attended the first showing of a blockbuster movie, but I saw the premiere showing of Les Misérables at noon on the 25th, along with the other Jews in the area. By the time the credits were over (I always stay for the credits to show respect for the crew), the lobby was mobbed and the line outside was down the block.  

The full review after the jump.
The movie was very well done, maybe over-the-top for some tastes, and if the Oscars had a separate category for musicals, I would vote for it as best, but Lincoln, followed by Argo, are still my top choices. It’s been a strong year for films.

In early 19th century France of author Victor Hugo (who published the book in 1862), there is no support network for the poor and the film vividly portrays their wretchedness. The budget for dirt in the film must have been significant. The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis objected to the ardent religiosity of the film, compared to the screenplay, but I appreciated its role in explaining how the embittered Valjean, paroled from 19 years of hard labor for the theft of bread for his nephew, could turn his life around by his love for the orphaned Cossette.  Alas, he is perpetually hounded by Inspector Javert, with a singular passion for the law, because Valjean broke his parole. Both Les Mis and Lincoln deal with the issue of slavery and the desire for freedom; the former depicts how fear and obsession could also imprison a soul.

The director Tom Hooper made the unusual decision of filming the actors live, instead of dubbing in their singing voices later. Thus, the sound quality was not as ideal as possible in a recording studio, but the acting looked raw and vibrant. Anne Hathaway was stunning, in voice and acting, in her portrayal of the doomed Fantine, who loses her job unfairly and later her purity and dignity trying to provide for her young daughter, Cossette. Hathaway lost 25 pounds for this role, amidst concern by the director. It may not have been the best role for Hugh Jackman, but he keeps his clothes on (in contrast to his role as the Wolverine in the X-Men series) and as a Tony winner (for The Boy from Oz), his voice is fine for the role of Valjean. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were marvelous as the despicable innkeepers, the Thénardiers, and their duet “Master of the House” was a comic farce of how guests may not leave their inn intact.

The Englishman Eddie Redmayne was excellent as the young revolutionary (with a wealthy family) Marius as well as Samantha Barks as the lovelorn Éponine (whose voice was deemed the best in the film according to my opera-loving friend). There is an indelible scene in which the doomed leaders of the failed rebellion of June 1832 are shot and the leader Enjolras falls out the window still holding their flag and his legs are tangled in the air. The young English boy Daniel Huttlestone playing the role of the brave Gavroche had the signature British accent for most Les Mis stage productions; Sacha Baron Cohen had the only discernible French accent for this French tragedy. Amanda Seyfried is beautiful as teenage Cossette in a role that does not demand much, but she has a lovely soprano voice and she trills her notes.  Russell Crowe ably filled the role of the obsessed Javert, a character who defies my understanding.

New York Times critic Dargis objected to the heavy-handedness of the director, but I thought it was a fabulous production as was his previous film, The King’s Speech (my Oscar pick from last year). The opening scene was absolutely awesome, even knowing it was computer-generated, with the hundreds of prisoners hauling in the battleship with Javert astride the deck. The mooring lines gradually rise with their efforts and the men become discernible from the water. As Dargis noted, Valjean becomes the Christ figure with his hoisting of a broken mast and I do not object. Hooper was aptly kind to the Catholic church, which was the sole savior for many souls in that period.