OC Metro
Tommy Tune In Laguna
Nine-time Tony Award-winner hosts Pageant of the Master's gala.

The summer-long Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters have had their fun in the sun and are now taking the next three seasons off, but the organizations ended their successful two-month runs with a gala benefit on Sept. 1 that featured a private Festival of Arts viewing and a private Pageant of the Masters show. Hosted by nine-time Tony Award-winner singer-dancer Tommy Tune, the evening raised many thousands of dollars to benefit the Festival of Arts building project, which includes an indoor facility to be used for displaying a permanent art collection and to exhibit new artists.

The star-studded evening included many actors from stage, screen and television, but none stood taller than the 6-foot-6 Tune, who says he usually travels to Laguna every year to watch the Pageant.

"I always come to see it, and I like that it keeps getting better and better every year," said Tune, who noted that he agreed to host the gala as a way to give back to the pageant some of the joy it's given to him over the years. And, like many actors, Tune is also an artist. For two years he starred in a popular Las Vegas show called EFX at the MGM Grand, and between performances would sneak off to his studio and paint. Once he completed his run of the show, he found he had painted more than 100 canvasses.

Also attending the gala was Susan Egan, a graduate of the Orange County High School of the Arts who has gone on to great success on Broadway as Belle in Beauty and the Beast and as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (she also worked with Tune in a revival of "Bye Bye Birdie"). A native of Seal Beach, Egan said her exposure to the Pageant began at age 10 when her family rented a house in Laguna Beach for the summer. She now attends the Pageant every year, and returns to her alma mater whenever possible to encourage students and help them along their artistic path. The High School of the Arts is launching its second year at its new campus located on North Main Street in Santa Ana, and Egan couldn't be more proud of what the school has accomplished in little more than 10 years.

"I went to Los Alamitos High School when they turned part of that campus into the High School of the Arts, which is where I ended up going, so my senior year in high school was the first year the high school started," explained Egan, whose first professional job was in "Sunday at the Park with George" at South Coast Repertory back in 1989. "Now I go back to the High School of the Arts every chance I get. I directed a play there a couple of years ago, and I do workshops with them. What's amazing is that not only has the facility become better (with its own TV studio, animation school, plus acting, singing, dancing and other arts classes taught by some of the best teachers in the business), but the kids themselves are more talented than the kids who were in my graduating class. Because so many people apply now, they have the creme de la crème. And the school gives them the tools they need to begin working in the business immediately after high school."

As proof of the school's success, Egan said that in the sitcom "Nicky" on the WB Network (in which she plays a Las Vegas dancer), four of the dancers used in the show's opening dance number are graduates of the High School of the Arts.

"It's an incredible training ground for the industry," she noted. "They have a proven track record."

Fans of Egan can see her perform in an intimate cabaret-style show at the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts in Long Beach Oct. 11-12. Making a guest appearance with Egan will be another local singer-actress with strong ties to Orange County, Lisa Richard. Richard's CD, "Born to Entertain," was presented to each attendee at the gala dinner. The Laguna Beach resident sang live during this year's Pageant, a rare event for the Pageant that normally features only still tableaux of paintings and sculptures.

"In the 64-year history of the Pageant, I'm the first person to speak to the audience from the stage during the Pageant, and no performer has ever sung without art behind them," said Richard prior to her final Pageant appearance this year. "It's wonderful to sing here, but I had a real challenge this year because I had to sing in French, which I had never done before."

Anyone who saw this year's Pageant will know that Richard pulled off the French number with ease.

One thought on everyone's mind as the final Pageant was about to begin was one of relief that both the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters were able to remain in Laguna Beach despite an internal struggle to move the festivals to San Clemente.

"We were on pins and needles about it," confirmed Richard. "Maybe we'd be in San Clemente, maybe not. I was heartbroken about it, but it stayed here. Now, to have been in it this year, it's really special." OCM