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'The Color Purple' Star Headlines Free San Diego Zoo Centennial Concert

This undated photo shows visitors watching during a stage animal encounter at San Diego Zoo.
San Diego Zoo Global
This undated photo shows visitors watching during a stage animal encounter at San Diego Zoo.

Tony and Grammy award winner Heather Headley will headline a free musical gala Saturday night in Balboa Park to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the San Diego Zoo.

This undated photo shows artist Heather Headley.
Heather Headley
This undated photo shows artist Heather Headley.

Headley, who is starring in "The Color Purple" on Broadway, will be accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a 100-member choir. She won her Tony award for performing in the title role in "Aida," and her Grammy in 2010 for her contemporary R&B gospel album, "Audience of One."

The show at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion will open at 8 p.m. with remarks from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Councilman Todd Gloria and former zoo ambassador Joan Embery.

"I think its appropriate that we pause on Saturday night to celebrate what the zoo has meant to us as a community for a hundred years as we look forward to the next hundred years," Faulconer said at a Wednesday news conference.

"I'm proud of the international reputation our zoo has as it continues to contribute to the goal of ending extinction of animals, plant and habitat around the globe," he said. "Our zoo is a world leader."

A huge, wrapped box brought into the Plaza de Panama at the news conference will be opened Saturday night.

The centennial celebration will begin at 6 p.m. with various children's activities. At 7 p.m., an attempt will be made to set a Guinness world record for the most people performing with hand puppets. The musical gala will follow.

During the celebration, admission to the San Diego Museum of Art and Museum of Photographic Arts will both be free. Admission to the San Diego History Center, which has an exhibit on the zoo's history, will be discounted by $2.

The zoo grew out of the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition, when surgeon Harry Wegeforth heard a roar from a lion that was left alone in a cage, and mentioned to his brother that it would be great if San Diego had a zoo, according to the theme park.