(BOSTON) — Spectacular Broadway entertainment and more than 400 guests celebrated Wimberly Award recipients Trustee John D. Spooner and Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman (The Jungle Book and Candide) while raising more than $1 million (with additional gifts still coming in) to support the Huntington's renowned education and community programs at the 2014 Spotlight Spectacular last Monday, April 28. "Transforming lives," said Managing Director Michael Maso. "That's why we are here — to ensure another year of access to the Huntington's programs for thousands of young people." The total raised also includes proceeds from an online auction that closed Friday evening, May 2.
The music and joy-filled celebration at the Boston Park Plaza Castle began at 6pm with a cocktail reception. At 7:30pm, guests were seated for the program, and by 7:45, they were on their feet cheering a rousing performance by Tony Award nominee André De Shields of "I Wanna Be Like You" from last fall's acclaimed Huntington production of The Jungle Book (adapted & directed by Zimmerman). A heated live auction headed by Maso and William P. McQuillan of Boylston Properties — dressed in trademark John Spooner attire including oversized red-rimmed glasses, a bow-tie, and red Converse sneakers — featured exciting trips and unique experiences. Guests donated more than $200,000 to sponsor classes at 2014-2015 Student Matinees, breaking previous records for this campaign.
After dinner, Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois presented Mary Zimmerman with the Wimberly Award, saying, "I recall an early workshop of The Jungle Book that brought me to tears, not only because of the brilliance of her work, but because of the love that she just infused the room with. It's her signature. Working with Mary on The Jungle Book and realizing her creative vision was an amazing journey for everyone involved." The MacArthur Fellow and Tony Award-winning director's ravishing musical adaptation of The Jungle Book (September — October 2013) received widespread critical and audience acclaim and holds the record as the highest grossing production in Huntington history. Zimmerman previously directed adaptations of Candide, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Journey to the West for the Huntington.
"I was really moved by this," said Zimmerman as she accepted the Award. "I had such glorious experiences here in this town and at the Huntington. I want to thank every human being that's here. We cannot do it without this kind of support from you. Everything that you've given means so much. It's given me such a strange and beautiful life."
Michael Maso presented the Wimberly Award to Spooner, saying, "The Boston Globe got it right when they called John Spooner a national treasure, and more importantly, John Spooner is our treasure. John does so many things so very well — he's a bestselling author, a renowned and successful wealth manager, and the snappiest dresser in town. It is his late wife Susan who we have to thank for bringing John into our family."
"A lot of this is a big surprise to me," said Spooner of the evening as he accepted the Award. "This proves a lot of things — we can still be surprised, which is what the Huntington does, what theatre does. It can surprise us and make us think. My grandfather taught me to love the arts. Carl Jung said, 'The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.' We need real relationships, not virtual ones. This is why we're here and that's why we need the Huntington Theatre Company."
The evening also included the presentation of the Gerard and Sherryl Cohen Award, a new recognition of excellence among the Huntington's production and administrative staff. Introducing the inaugural recipients, Properties Master Kristine Holmes and Associate Director of Marketing Meredith Mastroianni. Managing Director Michael Maso quoted peer nominations: "Kris approaches every show with a fresh eye and a determination to give it her best and her all. She is usually in production meetings saying, 'I think we can do that. Just tell me what you want.' And then she does it. Meredith is a master juggler, always balancing many print, mailing, and communications projects for multiple departments at the same time. Competing deadlines make her job stressful, but she always manages it with a smile and gets everything done."
Entertainment continued after dinner as Kevin Carolan (Baloo in The Jungle Book) treated guests to "Baloo's Blues" from The Jungle Book, Geoff Packard (the title role in Candide) and Lauren Molina (Cunegonde in Candide) celebrated Zimmerman with a performance of "Oh, Happy We" from Candide, and Molina serenaded Spooner with "If I Were a Bell" from Guys and Dolls, even bringing him up on stage where Spooner twirled her to the crowd's delight. Guests were again brought to their feet by a stirring performance of "Make Our Garden Grow," the moving finale from Candide, performed by Packard, Molina, and guest artists.
The Spotlight Spectacular was chaired by Huntington Trustee Susan B. Kaplan. Event Design was by Rafanelli Events, lighting and sound design was by High Output, rentals were provided by Be Our Guest, floral arrangements were provided by Bittersweet Gardens, event printing was donated by Noble Ford Productions, and the event was catered by MAX Ultimate Food.
About the Huntington
Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award and named Best of Boston 2013 by Boston magazine, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading professional theatre and one of the region's premiere cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso and in residence at Boston University, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form.