NEW BRUNSWICK — Returning to the times of the Roaring Twenties, State Theatre New Jersey’s annual gala turned the clock back nearly 100 years ago to when the facility first opened.

The June 1 gala, which raises funds to support programming at the theatre, featured a performance by Grammy and Tony award-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and pianist Bill Charlap.

Opening in 1921, the State Theatre stood out as a grand live performance and movie palace in the heyday of silent film and vaudeville.

Designed by renowned theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, it was one of the largest, most lavish modern theaters in the region. Now, one of New Jersey’s cultural destinations, the historic venue brings more than 200,000 people a year to downtown New Brunswick.

Gala group

New Jersey State Sen. Bob Smith with Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., and State Theatre New Jersey president and CEO Sarah Chaplin. Pallone was one of two honored at the June 1 gala in New Brunswick.

“With almost 100 years of memories, the State Theatre is one of the most special and historic venues in New Jersey, and so it was really wonderful to open the entire theater to our Gala attendees with this Roaring Twenties theme,” said Sarah K. Chaplin, State Theatre’s president and CEO. “It truly was the perfect night to acknowledge and applaud our amazing honorees; MetLife and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.”

This year’s gala, which transported attendees to the dazzling and decadent world of the Roaring Twenties, kicked off with the MetLife Vaudeville Cocktail Hour featuring live music with big band musicians, prohibition cocktails, gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and dancing.

Following cocktail hour, guests were serenaded with a performance by Bridgewater and Charlap at The Heldrich Hotel. The duo performed hits such as Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale,” and the Gershwins’ “S’Wonderful.”

Richard Leist

Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer for MetLife and State Theatre Trustee Richard Leist. 

“This year’s Roaring Twenties Gala went above and beyond our expectations and we applaud the combined efforts of an incredible Gala Committee and Theatre staff,” said State Theatre New Jersey Gala Co-Chairs John Fitzgerald and John Reissner.

The State Theatre 2019 Benefit Gala recognized two honorees this year—Corporate honoree, MetLife; and Leadership in the Arts honoree, and Pallone, Jr. New Jersey Governor Murphy and first lady Tammy Murphy served as honorary chairs.

“I was honored and proud to accept this award on behalf of MetLife, my employer of 31 years,” said Richard Leist, executive vice president and chief investment officer for MetLife and State Theatre Trustee. “While there are always many pressing needs in a community, art holds a special place. It challenges us to make our culture better, stronger, more ethical, and more inclusive. And, within art, the performing arts are unique. Performing art touches you on more levels; it’s a real world not a virtual world; it’s in a saying: ‘the power of live’.”

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