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The Pasadena Playhouse Presents the Opening Night of "Kiss Me Kate"

The Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA

September 21, 2014

(c) Photo by Beck Starr (c) Photo by Billy Bennight

(c) Photo by Beck Starr (c) Photo by Billy Bennight

(c) Photo by Earl Gibson III

(October 12, 2014,, by Patt Diroll)

Trailblazing actress Diahann Carroll honored with Diversity Award

No one could be more deserving of the Pasadena Playhouse's Diversity Award than multi-award winning actress Diahann Carroll, who received the eighth-annual honor on Sept. 21 before the opening of Cole Porter's iconic musical "Kiss Me Kate" at the playhouse.

Still ultra-glamorous at 79, Carroll rolled up to the playhouse just in time to ankle down the red carpet for photo ops before Executive Director Elizabeth Doran, who was also taking bows for the playhouse's brand-new seats and carpeting, made the presentation.

Carroll is regarded as a trailblazer in show business for having moved effortlessly through film, television, music and theater. She is probably best known in her role as "Julia," the first television series to feature a black woman in a non-stereotypical role, for which she snagged an Emmy nomination.

Sadly, her pal, Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps, who directed Carroll's 2002 playhouse debut in Charles Randolph Wright's play "Blue," couldn't be there to do the honors. Epps had to fly to North Carolina for the funeral services of his dad, the Rev. St. Paul Epps, the founder/pastor of Bel-Vue Community Presbyterian Church in Watts the first African-American United Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi.

Epps died at age 98, on Sept. 16.

Prior to the performance, benefactors of the Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Project were feted at a late-afternoon cocktail reception at nearby Roy's Restaurant, where new Playhouse Board Chair David DiCristofaro, Diversity Project Chair Darrell D. Miller, and benefit co-chairs Lesley Brander and Donna Ford made the rounds to thank donors for their support.

The event raised $119,400, and the total amount raised since its inception, eight years ago, is more than one million dollars.

Following the performance, which received a standing ovation for the predominately black cast, first-nighters partied with the stars at Old Pasadena's Picnik Restaurant. Carroll wasn't the only durable diva on the scene.

Also in attendance were two former "Kates," Patricia Morison (99), who created the role of "Kate" in the original production on Broadway in 1948, and Anne Jeffreys (91), who succeeded Morison in the role and appeared in the national tour.

Along with the show's stars Wayne Brady, Merle Dandridge, Brad Blaisdell, Rogelio Douglas Jr., David Kirk Grant, Joanna A. Jones, Jenelle Lynn Randall, Terrance Spencer, Pat Towne, Eric B. Anthony, Shamicka Benn-Moser, Jay Donnell, Kimberly Moore, Theresa Murray, Saudia Rashed, Carlton Wilborn, and Armando Yearwood Jr. celebs in the crowd included Tippi Hedren, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Jane Kaczmarek, Charlene Tilton, Sharon Lawrence, Freda Payne, Tim DeKay, Steven Culp, Jason George, Melora Hardin, Jeanie Hackett, Keith David, Bethany Joy Lenz, Anneliese Van der Pol, James Pickens Jr., Heather McComb, Dawnn Lewis, Joey Fatone, Susan Sullivan, Adam Lambert, French Stewart, Michole Briana White, and Jamie Jones.

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