CTG’s Oscar Night extravaganza

by Keith Barber

Glitz and glamour came to the Carolina Theatre on Oscar Night. From the searchlights illuminating the Greensboro night sky outside the landmark theatre to the celebrities milling about inside the lobby before the start of the ABC broadcast of the event on the big screen, the celebration of Hollywood’s biggest night drew nearly 300 people. Marilyn Monroe, Little Orphan Annie and Charlie Chaplin look-alikes mixed and mingled with visitors and guests, some of whom paid up to $125 for dinner and show tickets. A fundraiser for the Community Theatre of Greensboro, Oscar Night America offered the local non-profit arts group a chance to shine. Local celebrities and guests were interviewed on the red carpet by CTG executive director Mitchel Sommers. Event organizer Eleanor Schaffner- Mosh said everything went smoothly due in large part to the efforts of the roughly 50 CTG staffers and volunteers who have been working hard since early December. More than 75 performers entertained audiences during the commercial breaks. Even Sommers joined in with a musical performance. Three Triad Idols winners, the cast of CTG’s production of High School Musical 2, the cast of Recess, the Seniors Reaching Out troupe and the Triad Youth Jazz Society also lent their talents to the event. Schaffner-Mosh said teamwork between the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and CTG made for a great success. “It’s been an incredibly positive experience. The fact [the Academy] does this is amazing,” Schaffner-Mosh said. CTG’s presentation of Oscar Night America was one of 52 such celebrations around the nation, she added. Bradley Smith, CTG’s marketing coordinator, said the non-profit sold 88 tickets for its VIP Gala Dinner, and nearly 300 for the Theatre Party. CTG will present Oscar Night America in 2010 and it hopes to surpass this year’s attendance. Incorporating performances by cast members of upcoming CTG shows added a local flavor on a night when all eyes are on the ceremony inside the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. With respect to the Oscar broadcast itself, host Hugh Jackman should be given high marks for managing a lengthy, cumbersome show that was weighed down with far too many prerecorded segments. Undoubtedly, the 2009 Academy Awards will be most remembered for Heath Ledger’s posthumous supporting actor Oscar for his tour de force performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger’s family accepted the Oscar on his behalf, and after his mother, father and sister, Kate, spoke, there didn’t appear to be a dry eye in the house. Kate Ledger spoke of how when her brother came home for Christmas a year ago, she told him she believed his performance as the Joker would earn him an Academy Award nomination. “I said to him, ‘I have a feeling this is it for you; you’re going to get a nomination for this from the Academy.’ And he just looked at me and smiled. So he knew,” Kate Ledger said. Another memorable moment proved to be Kate Winslet winning an Oscar for Best Actress for her role as a former SS guard in The Reader. It was Winslet’s first Oscar in six tries. The British actress got emotional when she spoke of Reader producers Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, who both passed away in 2008. She also told Meryl Streep, who was nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Doubt, that she felt honored to be in her company but she would have to “suck this one up.” Sean Penn’s acceptance speech after he was awarded his second award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to political office in California. Penn opened his speech by saying, “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns.” Then he commented on a protest outside the Kodak Theatre, and addressed Prop 8 — a referendum approved by California voters that bans same-sex marriages. “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone,” Penn said. Slumdog Millionaire proved the biggest winner of the night, taking eight Academy Awards in total, including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Song, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. Other notable winners included Penelope Cruz for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Mitchel Sommers, executive director of the Community Theatre ofGreensboro, interviews a member of the cast of CTG’s production of HighSchool Musical 2 during the Oscar Night America celebration at theCarolina Theatre Feb. 22. (photo by Keith T. Barber)