Debra Da Vaughn

Broadway salute another chance to benefit food bank

Debra Da Vaughn and Christopher Simmons bring together a stellar cast for what may be the last in their fundraising series

If the upcoming Night On Broadway show at Surrey Arts Centre is to be the last of the series, creators Debra Da Vaughn and Christopher Simmons are determined that their annual fundraiser for the Surrey Food Bank will go out with a bang.

Their eighth annual musical potpourri, A Night On Broadway: After Hours will hit the stage Saturday, Oct. 4 (3 p.m. matinee, 7:30 p.m. evening performance).

The wife-husband, soprano-tenor team will once again feature a hand-picked group of first-class musical and theatrical troupers for a must-see show full of great melodies, emotional highlights and more than a few chuckles – all to benefit a highly worthwhile cause.

It’s jointly presented by the food bank with principal sponsors Envision Financial and Da Vaughn Studios – and, as always, 100 per cent of ticket proceeds go directly to the bank’s programs to help those in need in the community.

“It’s been great,” Simmons said of the series, which originally began as a salute to opera before embracing the accessibility of show tunes, and even an excursion to Hollywood repertoire last year.

But the last year of Envision’s five-year commitment to underwriting costs has to, inevitably, raise questions about the future of the project.

“Ultimately we’d have to find a way to keep it going – and we’d need to find another major sponsor,” Simmons said.

Ticket sales have flattened over the last few years, the couple acknowledge, and the effectiveness of the fundraiser ultimately depends on a high level of public response.

“We’ve poured heart and soul into this,” Da Vaughn said. “It’s been a fantastic event, people have been on their feet applauding at the end, and we always have people telling us how much they enjoyed it.

“Who knows? If we have a surge of interest, we might keep going with it.”

This edition is the nearest they’ve come to a plot show, they say.

“The new focus is more on story and acting elements tying together the numbers,” Simmons said.

While the first act will still hew largely to the show-tune variety format, he explained, the second act will provide humour and also a character subtext to situation-driven musical excerpts.

“We have a new director this year – Faith Toronchuk of Langley,” said Da Vaughn. “She’s done quite a lot of children’s theatre locally, and she’s written us a great script for this show.”

The first half will present extended excerpts from the scores of Anything Goes, Wicked, The King and I and Into The Woods.

“With those you can’t go wrong,” Simmons said.

“The second act is set in a Broadway after hours club where the performers sit reviewing the events of the day – not only what happens behind the curtain, but also in their personal lives as well.”

That provides the set-up for grittier character material from such shows as The Light in the Piazza, Urinetown, Funny Girl, Chicago, Follies, Chess, Fiddler on the Roof, Sideshow, Company, Spamalot and Jekyll & Hyde.

“We’re not just the voices in the chorus,” Da Vaughn added. “And we have a skilled actor joining us on stage – Meghan Delaney, who plays the role of the bartender.”

Also new to the company for this Chelsea Rose Tucker, who Surrey audiences will remember from her riveting villainess, Ivana Castacurski – and an electrifying performance of I Put A Spell On You – in last year’s Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society panto The Frog Princess.

“We saw her in that and like everybody else we were blown away,” Da Vaughn said. “It was one of those incredible, ‘what-did-we-just-see-here?’ moments.”

The couple note that Tucker will be heading to Toronto soon and her star is clearly on the ascendant in the musical theatre world.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to afford to work with her again!” Da Vaughn quipped.

Returning is powerhouse Langley-based performer Tamara Croft, who has the knack of making any song – particularly an emotional ballad – her own.

“I don’t think we’d ever do any project like this without Tamara,” Da Vaughn said. “We love her grace, and she has a voice to die for as well.”

“She’s such a powerful presence,” Simmons added. “She doesn’t just learn the notes and come out and sing it for you – she really projects a song.”

The couple are also thrilled to count seasoned musical theatre performer Gordon Roberts as part of this year’s cast.

“He’s such a top shelf performer – we tried to get him for last year’s show but he had another engagement.”

Pianist Angus Kellett, also unavailable last year, is back on board.

“He’s top drawer,” said Simmons. “We love working with him – and there’s nobody who brings more out of 88 keys.”

Bassist Graham Clark and drummer Colin Parker also add their considerable talents to round out the band, while the cast will also be augmented in some scenes by the piping voices and energetic appeal of the youthful Ljindberg Show Choir, directed by Chad Matchette.

“They were extremely well-received last year,” Da Vaughn noted.

While it’s not as dance-heavy a show as last year, Elizabeth Lay, daughter of show producer Lyn Verra-Lay, has provided choreography for some of the numbers.

And Da Vaughn and Simmons again acknowledge the community spirit of Chris Thornley of Thornley Creative in providing graphics and layout for the show and also Green Timbers Covenant Church and the Newton Cultural Centre for donating rehearsal space to the project.

 

For tickets ($27 plus service charge, $25 for seniors and students) and information, call Surrey Arts Centre at 604-501-5566.

 

 

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