Steven Tyler walks this way with Cirque du Soleil

Fred Lee also highlights Arts Umbrella, the David Foster Foundation, the Dr. Peter Centre and Music Heals (Photos)

TOP FORM: Cirque du Soleil returned to Concord Pacific with its latest offering KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities, the company’s 35th production. On a dismal wet Vancouver evening, a capacity crowd made its way inside the iconic blue and gold tents opening night to see first-hand if the show lived up to its pre-show hype. Notables spotted included a bevy of Hollywood stars — Neve Campbell, Alicia Witt and Zuleikha Robinson. Even rock star Steven Tyler made the scene. One of the smarter, sexier and stylish productions to come to town in years, Cirque’s latest bag of tricks will impress even the most seasoned Cirque-goer. Memorable acts include the Russian Cradle Duo, Theatre of Hands and Banquine, the show-stopping finale of perfectly synchronized acrobatics and human pyramids.

BIGGEST SPLASH: Arts Umbrella’s 35th annual Splash Art Auction and Gala was an unprecedented success, raising a record-breaking $540,000 in net proceeds. Party chairs Christie Darbyshire, Bruce Munro Wright and an influential organizing committee welcomed more than 500 guests to the art school’s flagship fundraiser, which was staged at the Hotel Vancouver. Splash artists, sponsors, guests and volunteers convened for an unforgettable night of philanthropy in support of creativity in the city. Yours truly along with CBC colleague Gloria Macarenko served as masters of ceremonies. The busiest man in the ballroom was Hank Bull who auctioned off 38 pieces in the live auction. With 90 per cent of the works going well above value, it was evident from initial bids it was going to be a record-setting night. Art changes lives and it is because of everyone’s generosity that Arts Umbrella will positively affect the lives of more than 21,000 young people this coming year, said a delighted Paul Laroque, Arts Umbrella CEO and president. Among the artists contributing their best works for the art auction were Marie Khouri, Ian Wallace, Douglas Coupland, Shannon Belkin, Athena Bax and Ben Skinner.

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STARRY NIGHT: Music man David Foster marked his foundation’s 30th anniversary with a star-studded fundraising gala and concert stage at the Parq Vancouver. The award-winning producer and musician tapped 30 high profile guests — including Jay Leno, Steven Tyler, Goldie Hawn and Oprah — to make an appearance this weekend either at the charity founder's dinner or on stage with the 15-time Grammy award winner. Since its inception, the foundation has promoted organ donor awareness and helped with the non-medical expenses of more than 1,100 Canadian families to date. When on this journey, many families have to split their time between their home and a city that has one of Canada’s eight pediatric organ transplant centres. With a little help from his friends, Foster is committed to raising $50 million for the foundation.

ONGOING COMMITTMENT: In 2010, businessman John Evans was invited to help raise much-needed funds for the Dr. Peter Centre, a place of healing for people living with HIV AIDS. The centre is named after Dr. Peter Jepson Young, the young physician and advocate who chronicled his own AIDS journey through a weekly diary televised on CBC until his death in 1992. Wanting to ensure the centre would remain open seven days a week to provide clients with a broad range of clinical services in a safe and comfortable environment, Evans with support from his social network, created the Life Commitment Dinner, a $1,000-a-plate dinner held annually at Lorne and Melita Segal’s Southlands home. Evans continues to steer the event, now in its eighth year. Joined by his daughter Sarah, the father-daughter team recently welcomed attendees to the posh party that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation. The evening also honoured Maxine Davis who led the organization for 20 years and who stepped down as executive director earlier this fall. The celebrations would culminate in an impressive show of love, with more than $400,000 raised. Proceeds will support the centre’s continued efforts as a global model of engaging vulnerable persons in compassionate care for HIV treatment and prevention.

ALL THE RIGHT NOTES: The Commodore Ballroom played host to Music Heals’ major fundraiser of the year. The Strike A Chord Rock ‘n’ Roll Gala attracted an A-list group of musicians to the charity’s fourth staging benefitting the Music Heals Charitable Foundation. Hosted by George Strombolopolous, the musical jamboree had all the makings of a winning night. Alongside food, drink and great music, individuals and businesses opened their hearts and wallets, contributing more than $500,000 marked for musical therapy programs in the province and across Canada. Among the Juno- and Grammy-winning artists that performed on the iconic Commodore stage: Chin Injeti, the Sheepdogs and the Sam Roberts Band.

Hear Fred Mondays 8:20am on CBC Radio’s The Early Edition AM690 and 88.1FM; Email: yvrflee@hotmail.com; Twitter: @FredAboutTown

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