Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS at the Beach
In the spirit of those wonderful Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies, the students at the Cape Henlopen Theatre Academy said to themselves, “Let’s put on a show!” to raise money for a worthy cause. The show? An original musical revue entitled Magic to Do, featuring great songs from great Broadway shows. The worthy cause? Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. The setting? The theatre at Cape Henlopen High School on 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, May 25. Now that’s all well and good, but where does the magic come in?
“To make the evening as magical as possible, the Theatre Academy invited some friends to join in the fun,” explains Theatre Academy Director Martha E. Pfeiffer. The line-up of special guest performers includes CAMP Rehoboth’s own CAMP Chorus, which will present a couple of selections from their recent concert series Broadway Our Way. John Wesley Wright, voice professor at Salisbury State University, will lend his operatic tenor voice to the festivities. Local favorites David Button, Donna DeKuyper, and Cheryl Graves are among those who will be stopping by to sing a song or two as well.
The headliner for the show is a local girl with some real Broadway connections: Jennifer Hope Wills. Originally from Baltimore and Ocean City, Maryland, Jennifer has hit it big on the Great White Way. In 2004, she enjoyed a successful run in the Broadway revival of Wonderful Town, starring opposite Brooke Shields. The New York Times praised her portrayal of kid sister Eileen in the show: “the truly luscious, honey-voiced Jennifer Hope Wills...When this Eileen sings, ‘mmmm...I’m a little bit in love,’ with the relaxed contentment of a cat in mid-stretch, it’s unlikely that anyone in the audience doesn’t feel the same about Ms. Wills.” Jennifer followed that up by landing her dream role, starring as Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Jennifer remembers seeing the show as a little girl, when she and her family would get up early and drive to New York, to be first in line for standing room tickets. It took only seventeen years for Jennifer to go from watching the show in the back of the house as a little girl, to standing on stage in the coveted lead role. “When I got the job, I called my dad and just cried,” recalls Wills, who played Christine from 2006 to 2010 (the third-longest Christine). “The first time my parents sat in actual seats for that show was when they first came to see me as Christine,” she says. “Many nights singing ‘Think of Me,’ I’d look out to that back row and remember those magical days where dreams began.”
However, the dreams for this Magic to Do definitely belong to the theatre students of Cape Henlopen High School, and some of those dreams have already come true. The students have already done several fundraisers for Broadway Cares, and they have developed a friendship with Broadway Cares President Tom Viola. On a recent trip to New York City, the students met with Mr. Viola before attending a performance of Grace on Broadway. Mr. Viola arranged for the students to have a private interview with Paul Rudd, Ed Asner and Michael Shannon after the show. Mr. Viola plans to attend Magic to Do to cheer on the students. He is also supplying some theatrical memorabilia, which will be available for bids through a Silent Auction the evening of the show. Restaurants, hotels and other local businesses are donating gift certificates to the auction, and area artists are donating original pieces of artwork.
“Something magical happens when a performer connects with a song and, through that song, connects with an audience,” adds Pfeiffer. “We are developing the show around the idea of ‘passion… and compassion’. We are allowing our performers to select their own material for the evening, whatever it is that speaks to them. If they are passionate about what they are singing, then the audience is sure to feel the passion and to get swept up in it. The compassion is borne out of our shared passion to work with Broadway Cares and to make a difference in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. That’s what it is really all about.”
Tickets for the show are $30 and will be available at the Cape Henlopen High School Theatre or at the door that evening. For more information about the show, contact Martha Pfeiffer.