Terri Lyne Carrington, Valerie Simpson, J. Casey Soward and Nona Hendryx at the Cabot’s gala.
The worst-kept secret on the North Shore is the world-class programming at the beautifully restored Cabot theater in Beverly, which hosts international headliners, hometown favorites, films, lecture series and whatnot, all of them top-notch.
Not surprisingly, its inaugural fundraising gala attracted a high-wattage list of all-stars for a tribute to Empress of the Blues Bessie Smith, including the likes of Paula Cole, Valerie Simpson, Meshell Ndegeocello and more. The evening raised funds to complete the historic theater’s restoration by its centennial in 2020, and it began with dinner at the superb nearby eatery Ellis Square Social, where guests could mingle with VIPs such as the reinvented Cabot’s founders, Henry Bertolon, Bill Howard, Richard Marino, Thaddeus S. Siemasko and Paul Van Ness, legendary jazz promoter Fred Taylor, Wang head honcho Joe Spaulding and the delightful Joyce, WGBH reporter Phillip Martin, This Old House host Kevin O’Connor, board chair Jim Dawson, Mass Retailers grand pooh-bah Jon Hurst and the gorgeous Jan, North Shore Brahmin Caleb Loring, scratch golfer Trip Hargrave, the theater’s charismatic leader J. Casey Soward and so on and so forth.
Kevin O’Connor, Bianca Baggio and Phillip Martin at the Cabot’s gala.
Left to right: Joe Spaulding and Joyce Spaulding, Alexander Falk and Nora Falk at the Cabot’s gala.
After dinner, guests ambled over to the theater for the show, which featured each artist performing a song made famous by Smith and one of their own choosing (Nona Hendryx singing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” will stay with me for the rest of my life).
Fun fact No. 1: The theater’s old seats, which were recently replaced, were recycled from the 1964 World’s Fair. Fun fact No. 2: One of the guests remembered seeing Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii at the Cabot in 1961.
Meanwhile, the evening’s best exchange was, “Nothing breaks my heart more than a piece of overcooked fish,” to which another guest responded, “Really? Read a newspaper.” ◆
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