Thursday, April 24, 2003

Songs, flowers lure crowds

AIDS Volunteers, teenagers benefit

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] At Monday night's Under the Stars benefit at the Playhouse in the Park, Fred Martens and Doris Callis (right) serve appetizers to Jennifer Newman, event coordinator for the Lion King cast.
(Philip Groshong photo)
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After a quiet weekend on the party circuit - Easter weekend is always like that - things got back to normal this week with parties Monday and Tuesday. On school nights of all things.

• Tuesday's party was the gala that opened the Cincinnati Flower Show, always one of the biggest dos of the year. About 600 shivered (the temp was dipping into the low 40s and high 30s), shaking champagne out of glasses and onto tuxes and party gowns. Or fur coats in many cases.

But they also got the first look at the show's new digs - a spectacular setting surrounding Coney Island's Lake Como, with crisp tents stretching from the west entrance off Kellogg Avenue to Moonlite Pavilion deep in the park's midsection.

The gala is traditionally a major dress-up do, though it was a little less so Tuesday because of the chill - no strapless ball gowns, only a handful of white dinner jackets, not quite as many jewels hauled out of the safe deposit boxes.

When guests weren't ogling the elaborate displays - the Tiffany table setting display is so elaborate and so pricey it has a guard stationed off to the side - they chowed down on a bunch of pastas, turkey breast, beef tenderloin, fruits, cheeses and desserts, all from Chef's Choice.

Or waited in horrendously long lines at the bars. The evening's lone complaint was that there were too few bars too far apart.

Guests chatted it up with co-chair Paula Comisar. The gala honored her and Marc Comisar's late daughter, Kenzie, killed last August in an auto accident. That's why the $150-a-head admission went to the Cincinnati Teen Drivers Fund, founded by Comisar and her co-chair, Pamela Boynton.

• Monday's do was Under the Stars, an evening of cabaret with the cast of The Lion King benefiting AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

More than 160 paid $40 to $80 to hear about 35 cast members sing show tunes, usually with dancers behind them, in Playhouse in the Park's 225-seat Shelterhouse.

But first, guests munched an elegant buffet - pork loin, chicken dishes, portabella ravioli, goat cheese fondue - donated by a fairly new caterer name of Absolutely 4 Food.

That while meeting cast members - you know the food was good because they were eating also and performers almost never eat before a show - and browsing silent auction items that included a ton of Lion King merchandise, tickets and backstage tours, all donated by Buena Vista Theatricals, the branch of Disney that owns Lion King.


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