A stellar evening with Kenny Rogers opens Ridgefield Playhouse season

Kenny Rogers will be the featured performer at the Ridgefield Playhouse’s season opening gala on Saturday, Sept. 17. — Photo by Piper Ferguson
Kenny Rogers will be the featured performer at the Ridgefield Playhouse’s season opening gala on Saturday, Sept. 17. — Photo by Piper Ferguson

by Pamela Brown

The sounds of the Grand Ole Opry will come alive at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Sept. 17 as a Grammy Award-winning, mega superstar commands center stage for a special evening of music and fun. Acclaimed country music recording artist  Kenny Rogers will bring his final world tour, The Gambler’s Last Deal, to The Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, Sept. 17, for its 16th annual fundraising gala.

Rogers will be joined by special guest and Grammy-winning country singer Linda Davis in an evening featuring dinner with an open bar, a silent and live auction, and a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Rogers.

“At our Gala we give you an entire night,” said Allison Stockel, executive director of the Ridgefield Playhouse. “Kenny Rogers is an icon in the industry. This is the last time people will be able to see him in concert. We can never  do this show again so it’s such a special experience that’s going to be amazing and fun,” said Stockel.

The evening kicks off in the adjacent Yanity gym with a silent auction and gourmet food provided by chefs from top local restaurants, including Bailey’s Backyard, Bareburger, Dimitri’s Diner, Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shoppe, Gallo Ristorante, Genoa Deli & Catering, Little Pub, Luna Rossa, Piccolo Pizza, Some Things Fishy Catering, Southwest Café, The Cake Box, and more. Some of the auction items include a ski trip to New Hampshire, tickets and a behind-the-scenes tour of Broadway’s Wicked, an Eagle Air airfare package, and a special piece of memorabilia signed by Kenny Rogers.

“Our Fall Gala is our biggest fundraiser of the year. As a nonprofit, it’s so important to have these events so that we can keep our doors open and do some of the great outreach that we do. The Playhouse is such an important fixture to this town, in addition to being a great economic boost to the community. We also do a lot to give back and work with many other nonprofits,” said Stockel.

At 8 p.m., the celebration will move to the Playhouse where awards will be presented to Gala Award Honoree Fairfield County Bank, a longtime Platinum-level supporter of the Playhouse and other community-wide non-profit organizations; and Arts Volunteer Award Honoree Daniel C. Levine, Broadway veteran and member of the Playhouse Artistic Advisory Board. A live auction will then precede the concert. A consummate professional who always puts on a fantastic show, Kenny Rogers will take audience members on a retrospective journey of his illustrious 50+ year career as he shares personal stories, shows never-seen-before video clips, and presents photos highlighting the significant points of his journey through the world of country music.

It should be a night of fan favorites as Rogers will be performing some of his most popular chart-topping hits, such as Lady, Islands in the Stream, Lucille, The Gambler, She Believes in Me, You Decorated My Life, Through the Years, Coward of the County, and many more. Linda Davis, a close friend, mother of Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, and Grammy-award winner for Best Country Vocal  Collaboration with Reba McEntire, will join Rogers onstage for holiday duets.

“She’s amazing, one of those really special, unique singers,” said Stockel.

The Ridgefield Playhouse is Fairfield County’s premiere not-for-profit theater and cultural mecca showcasing a variety of performing arts, including comedy, theater, music, and more, for all ages.

“When we first opened our doors in 2000, it was with the hopes the theater would be something great for the community. I love that it’s turned into what it is and we do so much with the arts, education, and outreach,” said Stockel. This season, audiences will enjoy a diverse slate of events. “I work hard to make sure there’s a great mix of what we have to offer – rock, the Actor’s Studio Workshop, jazz, up-and-coming soulful pop artists, like Eric Hutchinson. For example, in just one week alone in September, there’s a good compilation of what we do during the year,” she said. That week comprises a film, comedy shows, folk music, National Theatre Live, and the Lauren DiNardo Fashion Show with proceeds helping The Resiliency Center of Newtown.

Over its 16 years, to keep the venue fresh and vibrant, The Ridgefield Playhouse has added different genres.

“We offer an amazing variety – from Broadway shows to comedy, country, family events, opera, and rock – it’s everything. And the ability to get world renowned names to perform at a small theater like the Playhouse is great,” said Stockel, who loves the Playhouse’s World Music Series. “I’m really excited for the Latin band Tiempo Libre. They came last year and it’s so much fun. People were dancing,” she said. If you like political humor, Stockel suggests comedian D.L. Hughley. Other shows she’s looking forward to include Grammy Award winning trumpeter Chris Botti; internet comedy sensation Marc Maron; rocker Melissa Etheridge; and contemporary jazz saxophonist Boney James.

“We have lots of really great names, some well-known, and some not as well-known. There’s something for every age group, from four years old to ninety, in every genre,” she said. “I hear people when they’re leaving and I know they feel, ‘wow, that was a really special experience.’ They’re appreciative they have the ability to see someone in a little venue where they live. It’s very cool – it’s like entertainment in the comforts of your house.”

Stockel is especially delighted to officially kick off the 2016-2017 Playhouse season with the Fall Gala and a star who will beyond a doubt dazzle the audience with his distinctive husky voice and endearing personality.

“Where else can you get that experience of seeing Kenny Rogers in your backyard. It’s going to be a great night. It’s one for the history books,” she said.      

For tickets ($195) or for more information on the Gala and upcoming performances at The Ridgefield Playhouse, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org or call the box office at 203-438-5795.