First National Tour Cast Uses Their Wicked, Wicked Ways for Good

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When the First National Tour cast of Wicked could be enjoying their one night off during the week, they will be helping to raise money for worthy charities in the Atlanta area. Joining together in song, the cast, along with theBestArts.com, presents Our Wicked, Wicked Ways, a benefit cabaret, at the 14th Street Playhouse on Monday, September 26. The proceeds of this event will benefit Joining Hearts and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA).

For Kevin Ireland of theBestArts.com, the opportunity to benefit the community is priceless. Not only does the performance raise awareness of the arts in Atlanta, but it also works to raise needed funds for charities that benefit Atlanta. “It’s wonderful that these cast members are willing to give up one of their only days off to contribute so much back to our community,” he says.

Theater-goers and Wicked fans alike will find an evening of surprises, fun and great music. Several cast members of Wicked are scheduled to perform including Stefanie Brown (Nessarose), Justin Brill (Boq), Mark Jacoby (The Wizard), and Mariand Torres (Elphaba Standby), as well as members of the ensemble and touring staff. During the event, performers have planned to sing songs from a variety of genres.

“This benefit is mainly focused on all non-musical theatre songs. The set list is made up of a lot of Motown, some rock and even some alternative music,” states Stefanie Brown. “Everything you will hear is a lot different than any of the music in Wicked. Expect to be entertained by this benefit just as much as the show!” Justin Brill adds, “We’ve even got a few dance numbers that feature our incredible dancers from the show.”

For these actors the chance to give back to the community and support worthy charities gives them a sense of pride and joy. “I really enjoy coming together as a cast to support local organizations like Joining Hearts, AID Atlanta and Jerusalem House. Any time that we can put the popularity and interest that Wicked creates to good use is time well spent,” comments Brill.

Brown agrees saying, “I love participating in events like these because it gives us artists a chance to give back to the community and to help donate to wonderful causes like BC/EFA. Its fun for the audience and its a blast for us, and on top of everything we all give our time and money to help make a difference to people in need.”

Justin Brill (Boq) and Stefanie Brown (Nessarose) will perform in Our Wicked, Wicked Ways on September 26. Photo by Joan Marcus

Not only does the cost of admission benefit the charities, but a silent auction raises money as well. Items in the auction include the chance to be painted green like Elphaba, the opportunity to become “Glinda-fied,” a Wizard-themed package, Wicked props such as one-of-a-kind monkey masks and luggage used in the show and gift certificates to Atlanta-area restaurants and hotels.

Perhaps the most attractive and enticing auction item will be the “An Unforgettable and ‘Popular’ Appearance in Wicked” package, which includes an appearance on stage during a live performance of Wicked at the Fox Theatre. The winner of this item will appear on stage during the show’s opening, at the train station before the “One Short Day” number and in the finale. Plus, the winner will attend a costume fitting before the show and rehearse with the dance captain on the day of the performance. Two tickets for friends or family to attend the performance are also included.

With these auction items, and the participation of the talented cast of Wicked, Ireland hopes to raise $25,000 for the selected charities. This year, he wants the show to benefit charities that work with AIDS prevention and care.

“I selected Joining Hearts because they have one of the longest track records (and lowest overheads) of any group in Atlanta. Joining Hearts is a fundraising arm of both AID Atlanta and Jerusalem House, so I knew I’d be able to enlist a large pool of dedicated volunteers striving to make the benefit a success,” he states.

Wicked requested that we also include Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as a beneficiary, and that was a great fit with our local groups. BC/EFA not only raises money for actors stricken with serious illnesses, they distribute half of their funds across the country in community grants – including to Atlanta organizations like Jerusalem House,” he adds.

In addition to this benefit cabaret, Ireland has produced two others with the casts of Mary Poppins and Phantom of the Opera in 2010. To find a touring Broadway show to partner with, Ireland must wait for a show that sits longer than the normal week-long tour stop. This way the cast has a dark night that allows them to perform. He mentions, “In 2010, only Mary Poppins and Phantom of the Opera had extended visits. Wicked is the only extended show for 2011.”

Both of the prior benefits were well received by the Atlanta community, and Ireland wants this one to be the best yet. Beyond that goal, he desires to see the arts flourish in Atlanta and would like for this benefit to serve as a catalyst that inspires the community to support the arts.

“I hope that these benefits capture the imagination of people who don’t normally attend musical theater shows and inspire them to do so in the future. I hope that young Atlantans are motivated to pursue a career in musical theater because of the magic that they see at these performances,” Ireland says. “Finally, I hope that in these days of unrelenting tax cuts, citizens and our representatives will realize that the arts are important to maintaining a dynamic and thriving city.“

Our Wicked, Wicked Ways will be performed for one night only on September 26 at the 14th Street Playhouse. Tickets are available online at www.thebestarts.com/wickedbenefit, and at the door if available. General admission is $35 and VIP tickets, which include a 6:30 p.m. pre-show reception hosted by Amanda Jane Cooper (Glinda), Dee Roscioli (Elphaba) and Colin Hanlon (Fiyero), are available for $75. While all are welcome, the evening is intended for mature audiences of 18 and older and parental discretion is advised.

By Kenny Norton