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The Statehouse Convention Center took on the sights and sounds of the Big Apple for the 22nd Gala for Life, the largest annual fundraiser for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

The Sept. 15 blowout drew some 740 well-heeled supporters and raised roughly $942,000, a portion of which will go toward UAMS' Cancer Genetics Program.

There was no mistaking the Broadway theme, brought to life by the gala's Tony Award-winning producer and event chairman, Remmel Dickinson. Professional ice skaters wowed guests on a miniature rink at Rockefeller Center, a lovely Lady Liberty waved to partygoers from her perch high above the crowd, and a group of Rockettes look-alikes posed and performed. Attendees were encouraged to wear black or white formal wear or a combination of the two.

Dickinson declared success in "bringing the best of Broadway to the best of Little Rock."

Dinner was served in "acts," including a palate-cleansing intermission and a blockbuster finale -- tarte tatin with caramelized apples and mirror-glazed New York-style cheesecake. The main course was a bison rib-eye with Delmonico butter, pan-seared scallops with roasted corn beurre blanc and sides of Gorgonzola potato pancakes, charred asparagus and agave-glazed carrots.

Entertainment was nonstop. Michael Buble tribute artist Scott Keo crooned to a dance floor full of couples holding each other tight (visualize the iconic Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center), followed by a Broadway revue starring Dan'yelle Williamson and Kevin Massey. America's Got Talent finalist Joe Castillo created a colorful piece of sand art while guests watched on large video screens. The finished product was a butterfly, a symbol of hope that the cancer institute adopted years ago.

For more on UAMS' cancer genetics program, the only one of its kind in the state, go to

Guests at the gala included Dr. Kent McKelvey, director of Adult and Cancer Genetic Services at UAMS, and Lesley Murphy, a professional travel blogger and former Bachelor contestant who gave her readers a first-hand account of the genetic testing that led her to have a preventive mastectomy.

Gallery: 2017 Gala for Life fundraiser

-- Story and photos by Cyd King

High Profile on 09/24/2017

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