“A Tony Evening” delivers dollars, fresh energy to Alliance Theatre benefit

If someone randomly spun a dial and you stepped out of a time machine and into an Atlanta hotel ballroom hosting one of the city’s past-its-prime charitable fundraisers you might ask: “Is this 1996, 1999, 2004 or 2011?”
Thanks to the ever-inventive “A Tony Evening” chair Sally Dorsey and her vice-chair Todd Tautfest, Saturday evening’s benefit for the Alliance Theatre’s Educational Programming for children at the St. Regis hotel in Buckhead was completely unlike anything Atlantans have ever experienced at a fundraiser. True to her word at last year’s kick off luncheon, Dorsey delivered “as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”
As guests sampled nibbles and cocktails in the hotel’s Long Gallery, dancers from gloATL broke up any dull small talk during the cocktail hour by inserting their bodies into the conversation (gloATL founder, the luminous Lauri Stallings told us her ground-breaking dance troupe is delighted with their new digs at the Goat Farm on the 100-acre former cotton mill in West Midtown). Attendees were also equipped with BidPal touch screens so they could monitor their silent auction bids throughout the affair.
For Act II, the St. Regis ballroom had been transformed into a cozy candlelit theater where Tony Award winner Alan Cumming was set to perform a scaled down version of his NYC cabaret show. The act recently inspired his debut album “I Bought a Blue Car Today.”
Introducing the evening’s honoree, IBM veteran and Alliance Theatre board mainstay Ann Wilson Cramer, Alliance Theatre artistic director Susan Booth said: “I want to share a piece of advice Ann gave me when I began work at the Alliance. It was truly my plastics ‘The Graduate’ moment. At the time, I had not spent much time in the South. Ann told me, ‘Act like a girl until they’re not looking.'”
Upon receiving her award, a permanent seat in the Alliance center orchestra, Cramer told the crowd: “I feel so inadequate. My heart has been here since I first walked into this wonderful city.” But Cramer cautioned: “This fragile village of the arts community not only needs to survive but to thrive. This arts eco system is only as strong as each of you make it. Here’s the stage. Play your part.”
For her tireless efforts, Dorsey also received an Alliance seat next to Cramer. But she was far from through raising money. Said Dorsey before bringing on Cumming: “I hope that BidPal is throbbing in your pocket and that you can’t wait to bid more!”
The Scottish actor’s set was nearly as funny, blending selections from his Tony-winning role in “Cabaret” with original songs co-written with his Emmy-winning musical director Lance Horne. Along the riotous way, Cumming casually referenced masturbation, his husband, his U.S. citizenship test (an English sentence-writing exercise on the test inspired the title of his album) and a particularly pointed song “American” containing the lyrics “I dress to the left and vote to the right.”
Not everyone in the crowd was amused (this probably includes the American Express black card waving gentleman who cut in front of us in the valet parking line to protest the $15 charge for the hotel service. . .).
After Cumming’s standing ovation, Act III awaited in the Astor Foyer and Grand Terrace where New York City drag DJ Lady Bunny, in a gravity-defying bouffant, was already spinning James Brown‘s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” while gyrating in her DJ booth. Outside, hamburgers, fries and a standing ovation martini provided sustenance at the event’s late night supper finale.
And because we’re renowned for being tasteful and discreet, Intel won’t disclose the name of the beautiful Buckhead socialite who had a wardrobe malfunction on the dance floor when Lady Bunny pulled out the “Grease” soundtrack very late in the evening. . .