photos courtesy of The Phoenix Theatre Company

Above: Guests enjoyed a gourmet dinner under the stars.

The annual galas hosted by The Phoenix Theatre Company (TPTC) have become one of the most spirited, entertaining and sought-after invites of the season. In celebration of its 100th anniversary, this show-stopping event exceeded all expectations, delivering an evening unlike any other in its history. Named in recognition of this milestone, the Centennial Applause! Gala was held on Saturday, October 19 at the TPTC campus.

And what a celebration it was as 400 friends and supporters gathered to mark this momentous occasion. Guests first entered a walkway bathed in dramatic blue light, lined with mannequins dressed in costumes worn in past performances. After stopping briefly for a red-carpet photo op, the festivities began with a cocktail reception, affording attendees the opportunity to meet and mingle at the outdoor lounge and ArtBar lobby while enjoying tasty hors d’oeuvres and thirst-quenching libations.

Above, top left: Michael Barnard with Jill and Bert Alanko. Top right: Billie Jo and Judd Herberger. Bottom: left to right; Vincent Van Vleet, Nan and C.A. Howlett, Marisa Butler, Michael Barnard and Sandy Mac Magruder.

Guests were then ushered into the Mainstage Theatre and treated to an original musical tribute that chronicled the company’s 100-year history. Written and directed by The Phoenix Theatre Company Producing Director, Michael Barnard, musical direction by composer Craig Bohmler and narration by celebrity guest Derek Hough, the show was entertaining, fast-paced and jam-packed with song and dance – exactly what the audience has come to know and love about TPTC productions. 

Co-chairing the event were three Valley couples known for their community support; Nan and CA Howlett, Sandy and Mac Magruder and Maja and John Langbein. Sandy Mac Magruder welcomed guests and said, “We especially want to thank Executive Sponsor Bob Machiz and Producing Sponsors Janet and Larry Read. Very few organizations in Arizona have been in continuous operation for 100 years…we have much to celebrate tonight!”

Above, top: Attendees were treated to an original musical performance highlighting The Phoenix Theatre Company’s 100-year history. Bottom, left: Jim and Flower Manley Bottom, right: Jennifer and Jason Kush.

Having received a well-deserved standing ovation in recognition for his continued dedication, keen vision and unwavering commitment to The Phoenix Theatre Company, Barnard shared, “For me, it was spectacular to share our story with friends past and present. So many faces from our colorful history…It was truly a magical evening!”

Bidding was brisk for the five live auction once-in-a-lifetime experiences: Chef Coat Experience four eight at Steak 44 or Ocean 44, Studio Trip to Los Angeles, Diamond Package for four to attend the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards and Black-Tie Package to attend the 2020 Tony Awards. 

Above: left to right: Richard Stephenson and Dr. Stacie Stephenson, with John Langbein and guest.

The Centennial Applause! Gala made history by raising over $1.8 million dollars, which included the announcement of a $1 million contribution from Richard and Dr. Stacie Stephenson. Having just learned of Barnard’s goal to elevate our city into a premier destination for pre-Broadway shows, a capital campaign is in the offing. The plan is to transform the current Hormel Theatre into a state-of-the-art 500-seat venue that will host pre-Broadway plays and musicals while they are in development.

Returning to the courtyard, M Catering prepared an elegant, gourmet, sit-down dinner. Musical selections, curated by award-winning DJ Mikhail Fiksel, featured popular tunes than spanned the past ten decades. Attendees also were entertained with performances by Synergy Dance Alliance. The evening ended on a high note as guests danced the night away under the stars.

For more information on TPTC, please visit