The Brilliance at the Bankhead Theater Gala raised $500,000 on Sept. 7 to support local arts and cultural events during the coming year. The downtown Livermore theater’s annual event brought in $170,000 more this year than it did in 2018.
Development and Communications Director Chris Carter said performances can bring people from around the world together.
“Coming to the Bankhead means excitement,” said Denise Leddon, who was among about 425 at the gala. “It’s my life.”
The fundraiser featured a performance by television and theater star Matthew Morrison, who sang and danced for the crowd. He’s known for his roles as Will Schuester in the Fox series “Glee” and Link Larkin in the Broadway musical “Hairspray.”
The California native who grew up in Chico told the crowd Livermore felt like home.
Brad Ellis, who played the pianist on “Glee,” and the Livermore Amador Symphony accompanied Morrison during the performance. The Livermore High School chamber choir joined them on stage, adding their voices to a few songs.
Morrison’s wife, Renee Puente, also made a cameo appearance. The couple sang a duet after sharing the story of how they met and fell in love. They told the audience it was the first time they’ve performed together since the birth of their now 22-month-old son, Revel. The two planned to go out in Livermore after the show to take advantage of a rare chance to spend an evening together without their toddler.
There was also spirited bidding during a live auction at the gala to raise money for local youth arts education. Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center Executive Director Scott Kenison said the programs benefited more than 48,000 students last year.
Top bidders in the silent auction took home paintings, jewelry, wine packages and vacations. Proceeds will support events at the Bankhead Theater and the Bothwell Arts Center.
“The Bankhead transformed our city,” gala attendee Jim Folta said. “It’s the foundation of our entertainment.”