I've been fortunate enough to be asked to write again for one of New York's most extraordinary benefit concerts, now heading into seventh year. "In Celebration of Life 7" pairs Broadway and cabaret's top performers with New York's talent pool of songwriters in a concert of completely new material. This year composer Ben Schaechter and I are writing a duet with for the talented husband-wife team of Judy Kaye and David Green. Tony Award Winning Kaye is currently starring on Broadway as Emma Goldman in "Ragtime" and the Green-Kaye team can be heard on the cast recordings of "What About Love?" and the complete "Annie Get Your Gun," just recorded with London's National Symphony Orchestra at the famed Abbey Road Studios.
The concert benefits two AIDS organizations, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and The Momentum Project. You're probably familiar with BC/EFA, The Theater Community's incredible AIDS/HIV support organization, but you may not be as familiar with The Momentum Project, which is based at St. Paul's. The Momentum Project provides direct assistance: clothing, meals, counseling and community outreach on a one two one basis. In fact, one Benefit Committee Member does double duty; you'll find Oscar and Tony winning writer Betty Comden frequently volunteering as a food preparer in St. Paul's basement kitchen.
"In Celebration of Life" is the brainchild of John F. Znidarsic who is the producing director of Arts & Artists at St. Paul's, an organization devoted to developing new musicals and nurturing writing talent. My long association with Arts and Artists has been professionally and artistically rewarding. My songs have been showcased in twoDonnell Library Songbooks, and this is the fifth time I'm writing to order for one the organization's benefit concerts. In the past I was luckily assigned to write for MAC Award Winner Philip Officer, the famous Hollywood voice Marni Nixon and Lorna Dallas, Magnolia in the Harold Fielding production of "Show Boat" that has just generated a new CD on DRG.
Officer, who was in the original cast of "Side Show" will be performing a new song written by "Side Show"'s creators, Henry Krieger and Bill Russell. Stephen Schwartz is writing for the talented Cass Morgan. "Best Little Whorehouse . . . " songwriter Carol Hall has written a unique duet for Evan Pappas andTia Speros.
"Remember WENN's" Mary Stout will be dishing up a devilish piece of special material created for her by Alex Rybeck and Scott Hayes. Deborah Tranelli, who stood by in the title role of "Tallulah" and appeared for umpteen seasons on the long running "Dallas," will transform herself into psychic gypsy singing a samba from the talented team of Jim Merillat and Dick Pasqual. (These two talented performers have appeared in shows of mine and the evening should be a theatrical family reunion.)
An alphabetical name drop of some of the other performers: Tom Anderson, Bryan Batt, Andrea Burns,Charles Busch (out of drag), Liz Callaway in a poignant new song from the very talented composer-lyricist Jeff Harris, Broadway's most recent "Candide", Jason Daniely and out of alphabetical order, his wife, another "Ragtime" star Marin Mazzie, opera star Faith Esham and Broadway goddesses Randy Graff,Debbie Gravitte, Terri Klausner andKaren Mason.
Continuing, sort of alphabetically: Alix Korey performing a song completely of her own creation, Norm Lewis backed by The Broadway Singers in a new song from David Friedman, Alice Ripley (one of the "Side Show" twins) performing her own work, KT Sullivan, song writing and performing brothers Jim and Bob Walton and the incomparable Julie Wilson.
The song I most anticipate (other than my own) comes from the pens of the talented team of Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart. They've written a number for David Garrison , currently playing the treacherous fleet owner J. Bruce Ismay in the musical "Titanic". I've heard a preview of the Bogart and Rockwell's confection entitled "I'm a Lovable Guy" and it's worth the price of admission.
This is a one time chance to hear some of Broadway's best voices for less than the cost of a half price ticket. I confess to a bit of self promotion, but I'm also thrilled to be in such august company. Come and join us!
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