“Philanthropy: The Musical” to Honor 10th Anniversary of Red Feather Ball

What do Cole Porter, 88 keys and Katherine Abercrombie have in common?
Patrons will find out at the Red Feather Ball, when “Philanthropy: The Musical" will salute a Decade of Recipients of the Abercrombie Awards for Community Excellence.

On Saturday, October 14, the United Way is throwing a 10-year anniversary extravaganza at the Bacara Resort to honor the recipients, who include: Michael Towbes, Paul and Leslie Ridley-Tree, Wally and Ursula Drew, Sheriff Jim Thomas, Stewart Taylor, Stewart and Katherine Abercrombie, Bob Bryant, Larry Crandell and Andy Granatelli. Honored institutions are the Santa Barbara News-Press, Westmont College, Cottage Health Systems, Santa Barbara City College, Raytheon, Montecito Bank & Trust, Cox Communications, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and KEYT.

The genesis of the Red Feather Ball dates back 10 years, when Katherine Abercrombie brought a concept to Paul Didier, executive director of the United Way, to create an event that would honor one person and one business that have contributed in a meaningful way to the community. (Several years later the Red Feather Award was renamed the “Abercrombie Awards for Community Excellence,” in Stewart and Katherine’s honor.)

The event promises to be “over the top” from start to finish. During the gourmet dinner, performers from Cirque de Soleil will showcase feats of dexterity, strength and flexibility, for which the traveling troupe is famous.

The high point of the evening will be the musical cabaret. “Philanthropy: The Musical” will honor past recipients and poke fun at the process of raising funds. The mini-musical will feature Parker Montgomery, Steven Crandell, Anne Smith Towbes, Susan Keller, Erin Graffy and Captain Fred Benko. The cabaret will be followed by a short auction and then dancing until midnight.

“Philanthropy – The Musical” is the brainchild of writer and director Erin Graffy, who created the play at the behest of Ursula Henderson and the Red Feather committee to “come up with something very different” as a tribute to the honorees.

“A musical show of parodies – sort of a Capitol Steps – gave us a vehicle to personalize our tribute to these past recipients while being very different and a lot of fun,” Graffy says.

Previously, Graffy had created dinner-theatre parody shows such as “Musical Mischief Productions” (featuring The Every-So-Often Players), which she wrote for the annual dinners of the Conference and Visitors Bureau and Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce. In the last several years, she has written parody tribute songs for special events honoring Adele Wilkie, Larry Crandell, Pierre Claeyssens, Julia Child, Father Virgil Cordano, the Channel City Club and the Montecito Journal’s tenth anniversary.

Songs will include mostly standards. “I start off with really nice jazz and Broadway songs, and then ‘de-compose’ them, or as my husband says, ‘write new de-rangements,’” Graffy says. Therefore, Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick out of You” becomes “I Get a Check out of You.” “Casablanca”’s memorable “As Time Goes By" becomes “As Dimes Roll By.” Rogers and Hammerstein’s “On the Street Where you Live” is now a song about the dilemma of donor recognition named “In Receipt of Your Gift.”

The musical cabaret features popular pianist Gil Rosas, along with the talents of the six local community figures. “The other performers are well known in other capacities of community life here, but they have these hidden talents – great voices and wonderful stage personalities,” Graffy says. “This is what makes it fun – the audience already knows these people.”

(The United Way expects a crowd of some 500 people for the Red Feather Ball. Organizers anticipate the event may sell out, noting that nearly 200 tickets were already spoken for, before the invitations even went out. Tickets are $300 per person or $2,750 for a table of 10. For an invitation or information call 965-8591 or 882-0511 before October 1.)