Benanti told Playbill.com columnist Michael Buckley that she will play Lily — the role created on Broadway by Rebecca Luker — in the Dec. 5 concert to commemorate World AIDS Day. (A full interview with Benanti will be featured in Buckley's Aug. 28 "Channeling Theatre" column.)
The Secret Garden concert — at a venue to be named — is being co presented by artistic producer Jamie McGonnigal and The Storm Theatre. The production team will also include producers Brad Bauner, Adam Caldwell, Josh Fiedler and Ryan Hill. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.
Proceeds from the one-night-only concert will benefit The Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation and Camp TLC (Teens Living with a Challenge) — a residential summer camp program for teens living with HIV/AIDS — as well as the Storm Theatre. For additional information about JDAF/Camp TLC, visit www.jdaf.org.
The Secret Garden opened at the St. James Theatre in April 1991, playing 709 performances before closing Jan. 3, 1993. The musical, based on the famed novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, features a book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon. The original Broadway cast featured Mandy Patinkin, Alison Fraser, Howard McGillin, Rebecca Luker, Robert Westenberg, John Cameron Mitchell and Daisy Eagan, who won a Tony Award for her performance as Mary Lennox.
Laura Benanti most recently portrayed Claudia in the Tony-winning revival of Maury Yeston’s Nine. She received Tony Award nominations for her performances in Swing! and the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. She was also seen in The Sound of Music, Time and Again and the City Center Encores! mounting of Wonderful Town. Benanti’s regional credits include roles in A Little Night Music, Man of La Mancha and A Winter’s Tale. She can currently be seen on the new TV sitcom "Starved." Tickets for The Secret Garden will go on sale in mid-October. For sponsorship opportunities, e-mail SecretGardenInfo@aol.com.
Last season's Pippin concert, produced by McGonnigal and Kate Shindle, raised nearly $93,000 (before expenses) for the National AIDS Fund. Directed by Gabriel Barre, the cast included Michael Arden in the title role with Laura Benanti as Pippin's love interest, Catherine; Ben Vereen, Rosie O'Donnell, Shindle, Darius de Haas and Billy Porter, who shared the role of the Leading Player; Terrence Mann as Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; Charles Busch, who donned drag to play Berthe; Harrison Chad as the young Theo; Cameron Mathison as Pippin's half-witted stepbrother, Lewis; and Julia Murney, who dazzled as Fastrada.