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Ellen Adler and John Travolta

A Stella-r Celebration
For Who’s Who of Showbiz

By Edward T. Callaghan
Photos by Rob Rich

ITH breathtaking views of Gotham, the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center was a celestial setting for the Stella By Starlight Gala and the 2003 Stella Adler Studio of Acting Awards.

The committee list read like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and Broadway.  No surprise with Marlon Brando, Mike Medavoy and Roy Scheider chairing and an alumni roster that included Alvin Ailey, Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, Candice Bergen, Diana Ross and Bette Midler.

The evening was organized by renowned painter Ellen Adler (Stella’s daughter), vice chairman of the studio, and her son Tom Oppenheim, president and artistic director of the famed New York-based acting school, who pulled out all the stops to create one of New York’s most magical evenings in recent memory.

Elaine Stritch and Liz Smith

Show business royalty filled both the stage and the audience.  Veteran director Gordon Hunt and Roy Scheider conceived a masterful Salute to Musical Theater featuring Broadway greats Patti Lupone, Audra Mac Donald, Ann Reinking and new-to-New York Michael Smith.

Scheider put on his best Bob Fosse demeanor as host. Tony award winners MacDonald and Lupone brought down the house with a duet of Happy Days Are Here Again that would make Barbara Streisand green with envy.

Elaine Stritch, a studio alumna, was both eloquent and devastatingly funny in talking about her mentor.  Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet presented the Jacob Adler Award to Steven Spielberg for courageous contributions to American and Jewish culture.

The incomparable Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were sung to the stage by the sweet sounds of the Boys Choir of Harlem to receive the Group Theater Award for prolific achievement in theater, film and television arts as well as for community and social commitment.

John Travolta, Kelly Preston and
Peter Bogdanovich

The coveted Stella Adler Award for consummate artistic achievement and interpretation was presented by director Peter Bogdanovich to John Travolta to thunderous applause led by Anne Jackson, country-western star Johnny Lee and Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston.

Among the glitterati were Stella-r friends including Ellen Violett (who recently made a major pledge to the studio in honor of the late Irene Worth), Liz Smith, Joan and George Hornig, Rose and Donald Billings, Sony Pictures Classics Marcie Bloom, award winning screenwriter/director Deborah Kampmeier, producer Beverly Camhe, Brenda Siemer Scheider, Zoe Caldwell, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Fred Westheimer and Paul Bloch.

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