- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The Kennedy Center's 10th annual spring gala was green all the way. Green as in money Sunday's event raised a record $2.4 million for the center's educational outreach programs and in mood as well. The programs for Sunday's reception and dinner priced at a minimum $375 and up to $50,000 for a table ("$47,120 tax deductible") were a soft green color. Certainly many of the performers onstage for the concert, a revue of Richard Rodgers songs marking the centennial of his birth, were dare we say? evergreen.

The formal occasion, aptly called A Spring Soiree, attracted 1,600 guests from the highest echelons of political, social and diplomatic Washington. The big draw was the show, featuring a collection of major-league vocal talents performing with the National Symphony Orchestra and serenading the appreciative audience with longtime favorites from American musical-theater hits.

It was a epic evening, as well, when Shirley Jones and John Raitt, who was the original Billy Bigelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel," sang together onstage for the first time. Their duet version of "If I Loved You" brought tears of reminiscence to the eyes of many present. Rita Moreno, the first actress to win all four of show business's most prestigious awards, showed she still had the spark, as well.

The youthful contingent didn't go unrecognized, with the appearance of Audra McDonald (singing with superbaritone Samuel Ramey at one point), Kristin Chenoweth and violinist Joshua Bell joining in with the mighty voices of the Washington Chorus.

The master tunesmith's works almost serve as a Rorschach test, determining personality by the choice of a favorite song.

At the reception held on the Eisenhower Theater stage, Australian-born Delphine Daft, wife of Coca-Cola Chairman Douglas N. Daft and international chairwoman of the gala, picked "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from "Oklahoma." (A medley from the same show was sung later by veteran singer-actor Howard Keel, 82, who got big cheers from the crowd.)

Kennedy Center trustee Robert Barnett deftly chose "People Will Say We're in Love," eyeing his wife, Rita Braver, and saying they had celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary April 10. Irrepressible District Council member and girl-about-town Carol Schwartz couldn't help volunteering "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No."

A special touch, too, was the inclusion of 6-ounce Classic Coke bottles in the goodie bags that were handed out after dinner in the Kennedy Center Atrium. It was not off the mark at all, because the company recently gave a hitherto unheralded $1 million to the Kennedy Center.

Senior White House staffers Andrew Card, Karl Rove and Catherine Fenton made rare appearances. (As Mr. Card put it, they "don't get out much.") Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented the judicial branch, and Sens. Richard G. Lugar, Dianne Feinstein, and Edward M. Kennedy, were among the many congressional guests.

Other notables included gala co-chairs Anthony and Beatrice Welters; actress Celeste Holm; former Secretary of State Warren Christopher; Buffy Cafritz; J.W. Marriott Jr.; and philanthropists Jim Kimsey (with Queen Noor), Otto Reusch and Wayne and Catherine Reynolds.

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