Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Breathtaking Jewel In The Crown

Steely gray low-hung clouds paired with a steady, cold, annoying rain didn't create the most ideal conditions for the first Open House on the Grand Opening weekend of the spankin' new Kauffman Performing Arts Center. The weather didn't dampen the enthusiasm of Kansas City residents, though, as scores of folks lined up, rain-gear in hand to take their first steps into the stunning structure that we've watched take its impressive place in our skyline. Every fiber in my being wanted to stay home and curl up with the Sunday paper today, but rally we did and Holy Helzberg, was it worth it!

We fortified ourselves against the depressing conditions with a hot, hearty breakfast at Kate's Kitchen on North Oak. I took prelim action on the impending chill with a Scrambler called the Red Hot Mamacado; a senses-opening combo of scrambled huevos, locally-made Scimeca's Chorizo sausage, green chilies, avocado, and a fabulous house-made salsa on the side. Keith dug his Kitchen Sink Omelet. This little joint is most assuredly breakfast done right.

Onward to the traffic crawl headed into the PAC area. After finding a parking spot, we joined up with the long line leading into the center. Our wait was about an hour and indeed, I found myself growing irritable as pockets of rain kept popping up and when we'd reached a spot where I thought we'd grown closer only to realize our line was banking off in another crazy direction. Well, cry me a river...every minute in that line was well worth it as we grew ever closer to that magnificent building. Several musicians were entertaining the crowd as our line neared the entrance. Finally, we entered..

While the openness of the building allows you to see the impressive architecture outside; when you step inside, its nearly overwhelming to see, as every angle of the interior is a masterpiece of design. Grand jutting edges and great rounded corridors spill in every direction. All I could do was grin and wildly photograph every sight and sift through the pics later. When "later" came, we would see in every photograph that there wasn't a bad photo in the bunch: every angle made for a flawless photo. We even knew the folks strolling below us when we took some pics and waved at the Montagues.

We visited both the Muriel Kauffman Theater and Helzberg Hall. The Muriel Kauffman Theater, which will be the performance home of The Kansas City Ballet and The Lyric Opera is an awe-inspiring sight. We sat in the top balcony and when not marveling over the design inspired by Europe's great opera houses, we soaked in the sensuous moves of the Owens/Cox Dance Group. We moved on to Helzberg Hall, a warm and inviting space soon to house The Kansas City Symphony featuring an imposing pipe organ as a striking visual centerpiece. I saw my evil friend Dennis in the audience there.

As we prepared to head back out into the overcast day, we made a point of stopping to thank Julia Irene Kauffman; Chairman Of The Board, for this brilliant gift to Kansas City. Architect Moshe Safdie intended the Kauffman PAC to be an "extroverted" building so that it may be shared with everyone. The building's a showstopper, to be sure, and Kansas City is blessed to have it. They certainly celebrated with two nights of grand opening celebrations on Friday and Saturday with performances by Ithztak Perlman and Patti LuPone among others. Both nights, we were drawn outside of our home by the sounds of the fireworks displays bursting in the air and on Friday night, even noticed the Farmer's zeppelin hovering above the festivities. What a deservedly fabulous celebration!

Crowns are a familiar sight here in KC, primarily as part of the Hallmark logo and therefore in Crown Center as well as the classic Christmas Crowns that now adorn Zona Rosa through the holidays. Kansas City wears a deserved crown of its own as a champion of the arts. Artwork is woven throughout this great city and now the wonderful Kauffman Center for The Performing Arts is the glittering jewel in that crown. Good show, KC!!!

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