More than simply meeting high expectations, the 60th anniversary celebration bedazzled the nearly 300 celebrants who descended on the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club to honor the Naples Players on March 18.
Exuberance and spontaneity were event hallmarks all evening long, beginning with the cocktail reception in the hotel’s ballroom foyer.
According to Matt Flynn, Players’ set designer, a trio of stage backdrops used at the Sugden beginning with “Hello Dolly” followed by “Shout” and then “Jail House Rock” — yep, Elvis was right there — served as backgrounds for souvenir photographic portraits of attendees. Periodically, costumed volunteer dancers also would pop up there to prance about.
Chairwomen Delores Sorey and Chris Rideoutte were glamorous standouts; Sorey had made her own gown at home of a cobalt blue silk taffeta, ballooning skirt and form-fitting, light-toned net top with bright blue embroidered appliqués, with inspiration was Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. Rideoutte was svelte in salmon with a sleek, long-sleeved lace top with ostrich cuff accents and silver embellishments and floor-length skirt.
Auction committee member Lois Selfon and donor along with husband, Bruce, wore the reddest of shoes with diamante clasps she’d acquired 10 years back.
Mayor John Sorey picked up on his wife’s blue with tie and cummerbund while Jim Rideoutte, Players board executive director and emcee, was more traditionally all black tie.
Peter Hayman appeared as a “formal” tuxedo-clad cowboy in his “every night” ten-gallon hat and bolero neck piece, a gift from a Mexican princess, in lieu of black tie.
Olga Hirshhorn’s favorite dressmaker created her silken, antique green ensemble. A noted art connoisseur and collector, she explained that she’s returning an Elsie Upham painting of a bay window and clocks long “residing” at her Vineyard Haven home and rightfully a Naples Players belonging.
The brilliant ballroom décor complemented the dining experience that included a surprise baked Alaska finale followed by a lobby candy buffet.
Table favors were flashy, diamante-studded watches for the ladies and crystal bottle stoppers for men.
Jay Baker conducted the live auction featuring a wealth of items that occasioned wildly competitive bidding.
In addition, a “Diamond Key to the City” designed and created by William Boyajian, owner of Port Royal Jewelers, brought a winning bid of $42,000 that will fund the Kidzact Scholarship Fund. Boyajian opined that his contribution is, “the key to the future of the arts in Naples.”
Honorary chairwomen and event honorees were Patty Baker and Eva Sugden Gomez who exhibited her dancing expertise via video during the much applauded program that featured Naples Players performances they’d been rehearsing since August.
Founding patron and also an event honoree, Mary Watkins’ extended background of assistance to the Naples Players since its inception — she’s considered its “mother” — was also projected via video. However, her piano accompaniment to son Henry’s vocalizing was very much live.
Delores Sorey provided a net figure in proceeds of $400,000. The amount reflects ticket sales of $500 per person, all auction income, sponsorships — principal sponsor was BMO Private Bank — and miscellaneous donations.
Financial aid and volunteer support enables the Naples Players to provide highest quality community theater for more than 50,000 adults and children each year.