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Backstage at the Geffen honorees George Lucas, Mellody Hobson, Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Photo by Jordan Strauss.

Backstage at the Geffen honorees George Lucas, Mellody Hobson, Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Photo by Jordan Strauss.

Lady Gaga's Surprise Performance at the Geffen

Last night, the Geffen hosted its annual gala, Backstage at the Geffen, an irreverent evening of laughter, music and stories featuring personal “backstage” memories and musical performances by stars of the stage and screen. Honorees this year were Mellody Hobson & George Lucas and David Furnish & Sir Elton John.

The evening is always star-studded, but Sunday’s party opened with an especially loud bang — to everyone’s surprise, including the honorees, the curtain rose on Lady Gaga. Accompanying herself on the piano, she sang “You and I.” Plus, she had a little fun posing in the Geffen’s actual backstage …

Courtesy Lady Gaga's Instagram.
Courtesy Lady Gaga’s Instagram

After Gaga’s moving performance, our emcee for the night, Castle star Nathan Fillion led the festivities, which included a masterful rendition of John Legend’s “All of Me” by violinist Lee England Jr. and a hip-hop version of “Swan Lake,” choreographed by Toni Basil.

Photo by Jordan Strauss.
Photo by Jordan Strauss.

And of course, there were the stories.

Samuel L. Jackson and Nathan Fillion. Photo by Jordan Strauss.
Samuel L. Jackson and Nathan Fillion. Photo by Jordan Strauss.

Samuel L. Jackson elicited chuckles with his tale of becoming a theater major at his alma mater, Morehouse, because of a girl. She would be onstage acting, and he would do his bit part, then go downstairs and wait for the curtain call. “And smoke weed,” he added. Eventually, they married, and his wife, actress LaTanya Richardson, is his “harshest critic and biggest supporter.”

Photo by Jordan Strauss.
Photo by Jordan Strauss.

With a deadly dry wit, Anjelica Huston detailed her early gig understudying Marianne Faithfull (as Ophelia in Hamlet, not as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend). Though a critic compared her voice to an “unstrung tennis racket,” the job was what led her from London to New York and the beginning of her career in the States.

Photo by Jordan Strauss.
Photo by Jordan Strauss.

On a tender note, Beau Bridges recounted the story of his early days working with the late Gil Cates. For their joint NBC movie The Kid from Nowhere, Bridges discovered a talented 12-year-old named Ricky Wittman to play the star, a boy with Down’s syndrome. But the network balked at casting an actual handicapped actor in the role. Bridges said Cates told them he’d write a letter about their discrimination and send it to the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. The next day, NBC approved Wittman.

This year’s honorees, as accomplished as they are, were gracious and humble. Twenty-seven time Grammy Award winner Quincy Jones presented the Distinction in Service Award to Mellody Hobson & George Lucas, and Tony-nominated director Jason Moore introduced Distinction in Theater Award winners Sir Elton John & David Furnish.

Photo by Jordan Strauss.
Photo by Jordan Strauss.

The night would not exist, however, if not to benefit the Geffen Playhouse’s many initiatives including new play development, playwright commissions, and second productions, as well as the not-for-profit’s award-winning education and outreach programs which help bring the excitement of live theater to more than 15,000 disadvantaged youth, seniors and veterans annually. This year, the fundraiser raised over $1.5 million, a record for the event. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!

Until next year, thank you for your support of the Geffen. We’ll see you at the theater!

To support the education and outreach programs highlighted at the event, please click here.

Many thanks to Backstage at the Geffen title sponsor City National Bank, returning for the sixth year, and presenting sponsors Audi of America, Clay Lacy Aviation, Louis XIII, and Robert K. Kraft. Special thanks to UCLA.


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