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Unleashing Joy through Genuine Hospitality: Stories from the Heart of Great Performances



By Great Performances

Last year, we updated our mission to truly reflect who we are and who we want to be as Great Performances. We are, at our very core, committed to service and creating memorable events and moments of joy for our clients and their guests. It’s how we’ve made our mark as a company, and it’s only fitting that we capture that in our mission, Unleash Joy through Genuine Hospitality.

Our Event Directors, who are the architects of joy through the events they manage, share how they’ve created moments that support our mission. Amanda DiUglio recounts a team-building event where the simple act of pizza making created community and spread joy. Jodi Smith shares a global journey through food at an unforgettable holiday party inspired by the Olympic spirit.

Read on to see how we’ve delighted our clients and their guests and created moments of joy and wonder by bringing people together around a table.

Linda Abbey, Executive Vice President

Event: “Night at the Theatre – Back to the Future
Client: Champion Charities
Location:787 Seventh Avenue

Of the 100 events catered by my team this year, the most joyful was the “Night at the Theatre” sponsored by Champion Charities.   Founded by former NFL greats, Harris Barton & Ronnie Lott, this organization raises funds to help children & families in need via their signature theatre-night events.

This year’s “Night at the Theatre” was a cocktail station party for young people & their families hosted at 787 Seventh Avenue & themed after the current Broadway musical version of “Back to the Future.”

Guests included folks from Harlem Children’s Zone, New City Kids, Bronx Lacrosse, the Innocence Project, Teach for America New York, Education Through Music & Student Sponsor Partners.

Parked outside the venue was an authentic DeLorean setting the stage for the evening ahead.

The film/musical provided built-in inspiration for crafting the menu, with hors d’oeuvres served from skateboard trays & themed food stations:

  • Under the Emerald Sea – Be There or Be Square
    • Lobster Rolls; Fish Tacos; Cole Slaw
  • Lou’s Diner – Time Travel’s Fast 1955 TV Dinner
    • Fried Chicken & Waffles; Mac ‘n Cheese; Iceberg Lettuce Salad
  • DeLorean Haystack Crash
    • Vegetarian Pizzettas & Pastas

The party culminated with guests enjoying a dramatic display of ‘vintage’ penny candy after which all 1,000 guests proceeded across the street to the Winter Garden Theatre to enjoy the actual “Back to the Future” musical.   For many, this was their first experience seeing a Broadway show. 

To cater such an impressive event for guests who normally would have no access was a privilege for this party planner.  The unbridled energy & excitement of the attendees was infectious. 

A momentous evening for both the guests & Great Performances as well.


Image credit: Shelby Griswold

Amanda DiUglio, Senior Event Director

Event: Team building
Client: One of America’s top private companies
Location: Watermill Center, Watermill, NY

On a picture-perfect summer day in Southampton, colleagues from one of our corporate clients convened for a day of team building. Set against the backdrop of the ocean, the 30-strong group was paired off to engage in a round-robin of activities, designed to unveil each other’s skills and strategize their way to the top of the scoreboard. Amidst the array of activities, the most cherished one turned out to be the art of pizza making. The premise was simple: each team would craft their ideal pizza using a variety of toppings ranging from crumbled sausage and caramelized onions to a variety of cheeses, farm-fresh vegetables, and even fruits. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the pizzas were proudly showcased and sampled by all teams and ranked. Then, as teams attempted to discern which pizza belonged to which team, and in true corporate fashion, a spirited rating of the top three ensued, sparking joy, camaraderie, and shared creativity.

Jodi Smith, Senior Event Director

Event: Holiday Party
Client: Rockefeller University
Location: Rockefeller University

At Rockefeller University on a frosty winter night, we unleashed joy through an unforgettable holiday celebration for our esteemed client and 1400 of their guests. The global cuisine was inspired by the Olympic Spirit, a theme that let us transcend borders to meet the requirements of an international body of staff.

From the ice bar featuring a vodka luge to the bronze, silver, gold medal cookies, this party was not just an event; it was an experience. Guests indulged in a culinary odyssey with a barbecue station sizzling with flavor and representing Atlanta, Georgia; a Brazilian churrascaria igniting their senses and representing Rio de Janeiro; the aroma of the warm spices in the Pan-African area, bringing to the taste buds the 15 nations of Africa represented in the Olympics; a European spread featuring hearty apres ski treats a la Lillehammer, and an Asian market tantalizing taste buds much like would have been enjoyed in Beijing.

Unleashing joy is not just our mission; it’s our commitment. We created an experience that felt transportive, taking guests around the world through food, fostering genuine connections and spreading the spirit of celebration. Welcome to a holiday party like no other, where the world converges, and joy knows no bounds.

Morgan Golumbuk, Senior Event Director

Event: All-Hands
Client: Moët Hennessy
Location: Center415

It is rare to execute an event that truly unleashes joy for every single person involved, but I can say with certainty that our March event for Moët Hennessy was foremost among them this year. Held at Center415 on our recommendation, the Moët Hennessy team planned an all-day all-hands event to brief their team on their upcoming commercial transformation. For our team, that meant producing a buffet breakfast, seated lunch, all day snacks, butlered hors d’oeuvres, buffet dinner, and a variety of luxury brand cocktails for (240) guests. Over the course of a quick six weeks, we combed through detail after detail, hammering out logistics and tailoring menus to pair with the client’s expansive beverage portfolio.

For the guests and staff, the joy was expressed as unbridled event day excitement; for the client herself, it was pure relief on the day prior. She and I floated adjacent to each other in the half-constructed venue space, our working setup day orbits separate but linked. I mentioned in passing that we had ordered cocktail picks for one of their tasting activations, as I hadn’t seen them on their list of catering asks but extrapolated the need from a photo of the finished drink. Her eyes widened and a huge smile broke over her face; in that moment, I knew we had established a trust that would echo throughout whatever frenzy the next day would hold. The next morning – prior to the event’s 8:00am start – I spoke to the staff, teary-eyed in my earnest declaration that these were the type of events that I had always wanted to execute: luxurious, complicated, and fruitful. While I can’t be certain that my impassioned speech impacted them, I can say with confidence that their smiles were as genuine as both mine and the client’s.

From the breakfast to the bottle parade, guests were treated to surprise after joyous, cognac-steeped surprise. Each moment we helped bring to life was another notch in our belt, and I left the venue feeling deeply joyous and fulfilled. Above all, this event made clear that unleashing true joy is never one-dimensional; it returns infinitely in every direction.

Ali Rea-Baum, Senior Event Director

Event: Wedding
Wedding Planner: Lyndsey Hamilton
Location: The Reform Club, Amagansett, NY

At this wedding, though a wedding attendant has been featured as a service we provided throughout the planning process, it wasn’t until the day of the wedding that the couple realized the sheer joy it would bring to have an attendant at their side through their night. Catherine, their wedding attendant, made sure that during the moments that the couple shared away from their guests, whether it be taking photos or having a personal moment alone, included opportunities to enjoy everything that their guests were appreciating during the day. Weddings can be a marathon of happiness and memories, but the small moments can be overlooked, and the wedding attendant makes sure that you take a moment to truly enjoy your day: that you always have a glass of water nearby, and then a drink should you want that; that you have food and snacks throughout the evening to keep you energized; and that you even can be pulled away at key times when your time is being monopolized.

Ronnie Davis, Managing Director

When first presented with these ubiquitous words as a Great Performances value, I was not certain that it captured what it is we truly do.  But then I started remembering the moments at my 2023 events that I remembered most. Whether personally serving an Artisanal Pizza to the delight of the guest of honor at a high-end birthday celebration in Connecticut (pizza is his favorite food), or watching attendees rave about a Vegan Lunch we served at the Time 100 Summit, or seeing the audience’s ecstatic applause of a Broadway Star singing to attendees at an Ellis Island Anniversary Gala, or childlike enthusiasm from a Paella Pan filled with Grilled Lobster Tails at the Alzheimer’s Association Summer Hamptons event…. those reactions all exemplify Unleash Joy” This is really the driving force behind why we do what we do.

 None have ever said it better than the great American Poet Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.