The Brooklyn Academy of Music followed its tradition of putting the focus of its galas directly on its stages Thursday night. The BAM theater gala started with dinner on the boards at the Howard Gilman Opera House, before moving to the institution's nearby Harvey Theater for a performance of The Diary of a Madman with Geoffrey Rush.
The production, which came to Brooklyn from the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney, Australia, is adapted from a Nikolai Gogol short story, and its themes and Russian setting inspired the dinner decor. Providing a preview of the central character's increasingly deranged journal entries, Fleurs Bella hung reams of paper above the dining tables that packed the Gilman stage, and quills were among the flowers. Great Performances served a white and green asparagus salad with morels, quail egg, and black truffle-sherry vinaigrette, followed by an entrée of sumac-seared filet of beef with vanilla parsnip puree and roasted mushrooms.
Overseen by BAM director of special events Glenn Stiskal and raising $750,000, the night featured considerable star power, with some notable Australians among the 500 guests at dinner: Hugh Jackman, director Baz Luhrmann, and Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin, who designed the Madman sets for its original Belvoir incarnation in 1989. Among those turning heads at the performance were Blake Lively, Hugh Dancy, Claire Danes, Peter Sarsgaard, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Flying Television helped the BAM staff with celebrity outreach.
The very rainy, very windy night had some braving the two-block walk between the BAM buildings with umbrellas, others riding buses from Skyliner. After the show, many guests—including 200 who didn't attend the dinner—headed back to the Peter Jay Sharp Building (home of the opera house), for a “Samovars & Sweets Dessert Party” upstairs in the Lepercq Space.