Malibu Seen: The Force is with the Phil

Stormtroopers invade Disney Hall for an opening night salute to John Williams.

Darth Vader at Disney Hall? Believe it — lightsaber and all. Yes, the stars aligned for a grand opening night as Gustavo Dudamel helped kick up the 2014-15 Los Angeles Philharmonic Season with a “Celebration of John Williams.” 

Local Phil lovers like Julie Andrews and Ginny Mancini gussied up in their black tie best to salute the famous music composer who has scored so many memorable moments for generations of fans. 

They joined longtime supporters like Michael and Jane Eisner, Michael Feinstein, Frank Gehry, Herbie and Gigi Hancock, Anjelica Huston, Anne Jeffreys, Don Johnson, Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, William Shatner, and guest of honor John Williams, who walked the white carpet up Walt Disney Concert Hall’s grand stairway. 

Other familiar faces included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Don Knabe, Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky. They mingled with LA Phil Chair and Gala Co-Chair Diane B. Paul, LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and wife Eloísa Maturén Dudamel, LA Phil President Deborah Borda and LA Phil Chief Operating Officer Gail Samuel. 

Just how do you set the stage for the legendary composer who has given us every variety of musical moments? They went for cool, modern, chic and sleek. The setting of BP Hall was transformed with washes of white light and contemporary furnishings. At the pre-concert reception guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres but soon … it was showtime! 

The all-Williams concert began with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets who joined “The Dude” and his world-class orchestra for the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” which Williams composed for the 1984 Olympic Games. 

The spirited theme was followed by “Soundings,” which was first performed at the concert hall’s celebrated opening in 2003. 

But this symphonic ice cream sundae was just beginning. Next, superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman performed breathtaking selections from the Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List.” 

The program continued with the orchestra performing “Throne Room” and “Finale” from “Star Wars,” accompanied by a dazzling video presentation. 

One knockout event calls for another and as a first encore, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC) entered the stage to sing “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from the 1997 film “Amistad.” 

And you know this one was coming … the ominous opening measures of Williams’ theme from “Jaws,” which … pause … gasp … pause … had “terrified looking” youngsters fleeing the stage. 

How do you top one like that? Well, how about the evening’s honoree taking the stage, leading the orchestra in a performance of his famous “Imperial March” from “Star Wars” and, you guessed it, the magical appearance of Imperial Stormtroopers, heralding the arrival of Darth Vader himself. It all wrapped up with a sea of confetti in the shapes of C-3PO and R2-D2 cascading from the ceiling. 

Guests made their way to a first-class feast and were greeted by the “Star Wars” gang as they entered the tent for dinner. The party palace was decked out in gold, white and black, complete with floating black lacquered boxes filled with geometrically placed arrangements. 

As a surprise, there was a guest performance by members of the original Cantina Band from “Star Wars.” 

After a dessert of chocolate hazelnut pudding and berry soufflé, music lovers danced the night away. 

Best of all, the evening raised more than $3.4 million for the Phil’s many wonderful musical and educational programs, which serve 150,000 kids, their families and teachers each year. Encore!