Lyric celebrates 90 years with a roast

Friday, March 11, 2016

March 11, 2016
Shelley Koppel
Staff writer

MARTIN COUNTY — John Loesser, artistic director of the Lyric Theatre, can often be seen holding court at the Osceola Street Café. On the evening of March 3, he moved up to a real red and gold throne, rolled onto the Lyric stage by Kia Fontaine, the Lyric’s executive director. The event was the theater’s 90 birthday and it featured a roast of Loesser by local luminaries, actor Jim Brochu and comedian Steve Solomon, both longtime Loesser friends.

The event began with a cocktail hour and silent auction, followed by a live auction led by celebrity auctioneer Tim Luke in a red sequined jacket. He had great items to work with, including a weekend for four in New York with John Loesser and featuring a Broadway show and backstage tour; a weekend for four in New Orleans, hosted by John Shoup, producer of the PBS and the Discovery Channel’s “Great Chefs;” a weekend tour for four in Washington, D.C., hosted by Knight and Ann Kiplinger; a five-day sailing adventure for two in Scandinavia, led by John Moffitt and Priscilla Baldwin and a fully catered private Super Bowl party at the Lyric for 100.

The bidding was spirited for all the items. Margaret Richebourg Temple and Joe Temple of Sailfish Point won the weekend in Washington and explained why they bid on it.

“The Kiplingers will give the finest tour we can imagine,” she said. “We know both Ann and Knight. We’ve heard him speak for years and we’re friends. We know it will be a spectacular weekend because he’s a wealth of knowledge and so articulate and brilliant. It will be far superior to a tour anyone else could give and that’s why we bid on it.”

Others toasting and roasting Loesser included Bob Crandall, former president and chairman of American Airlines, Lyric Board president emerita Ethel Christin and auctioneer Elliott Paul.

“You are what makes the Lyric Theatre the best and the worse, at at the same time, but you’re our guy,” Paul said.

Loesser sat on his throne, without his trademark baseball cap but with his sneakers. As Solomon began the roast, with funny riffs on some of Loesser’s “shortcomings,” the honoree held up signs, including one that said, “Help Me.”

A highlight of the evening was when a big box was rolled on stage. As Loesser lifted off the top, out stepped his daughter Gracie, who now lives in Seattle. It was a complete surprise to Loesser and to his wife, Laura, seated in the audience.

Of course, in the end, it was a birthday party for the Lyric. The theater, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1993, was originally a movie house. It fell on hard times and was almost razed, until a group called the Friends of the Lyric joined together to save it. After a substantial renovation in 2014 and 2015, the Lyric stands as a grand lady, ready for the next 90 years.

For Nancy Wong, a Lyric board member, the Lyric and John Loesser are synonymous.

“The Lyric is the heart of downtown Stuart and John Loesser has played a role in making it a vibrant performing arts theater. I’m happy to be here to celebrate the Lyric’s 90th birthday and John.”


Photo by of Michelle Gentile
At the March 3 90th birthday party for the Lyric Theatre and roast of artistic director John Loesser, celebrity auctioneer Tim Luke auctions fabulous items while John Loesser, on his throne, provides commentary,
Photo courtesy of Michelle Gentile
A delivery man brings a box containing Gracie Loesser, who flew in from Seattle for the roast, to her surprised father.