Raising money for producers may be a strange idea (isn't raising money what producers do themselves?), but raising money to encourage new works and the producers of them is the goal of the New York City-based Theatre Resources Unlimited group. TRU feted themselves March 6 with a benefit to raise funds to do just that -- encourage producers to support new works with grants and monetary gifts.
Supporting the evening with their talents were cabaret's Angela LaGreca, Joan Crowe, Margaret Wakeley Harris and Maureen Kelley Stewart and Broadway's Bart (1999 Tony Award winner, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), Daniel Jenkins (Wrong Mountain, Big), Rob Evan (Jekyll & Hyde), Ken Prymus (Cats), Matt Bogart (Smokey Joe's Cafe, The Civil War) and Everette Bradley (Swing!). Shari Upbin directed and choreographed the evening. Some were TRU members, others were there to support the dreams of various writers and performers to make their songs successful.
A few possible Broadway sneak peeks came with performances from The Night They Raided Minsky's, Everything's Ducky and an unnamed Frank Wildhorn song penned with Stephen Schwartz. "Home" from Minsky's, sung by Ken Prymus (Cats), Suzanna Bowling, Joan Crowe and Allyson Tucker, was a hymn to show business in the form of burlesque, listing the things the girls loved about their chosen line of work including "long rehearsals," "stupid songs," make-up, sweat, "the damn musicians," the doorman and "the stagehands in the halls." "Wipe That Egg Off Your Face, " an optimistic comic song and dance with Crowe, extolled the plucky character to "wipe that egg of your face and make a great big omelette." "Friends We Can Never Be," the Wildhorn song from an unnamed source and sung by Evan, told of a soldier in his regiment drawn to a beautiful woman with whom he can never be friends, only lovers.
"Throw That Girl Around," stripped down from its eight piece band and drums arrangement to a bongo and piano accompaniment, was, in fact, the only number that had already found its place on Broadway. Bradley, a TRU member and part author of the musical Vices, performs his song nightly in Swing! - granted, without the backup from his co creators, Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid, that he received at the benefit.
Two cut songs were reinstated -- at least into the evening. Daniel Jenkins (Wrong Mountain, Big) sang "Shoes," removed from the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical Lucky Stiff, during which he wished he could be in another's shoes, the kind that would go dancing or traveling instead of staying at home as his did. The movie "Hercules" lost "Shooting Star," the title character's paean to his good luck emblem, a star that, instead of blending in with the others, stands out against the sky. Hercules' singing voice Bart sang the adolescent boy's number, begging the audience's pardon as he was "the only 34 year old whose voice hasn't changed...except now it has." Charlie Shanian and Shari Simpson revisited their recent Off-Broadway production of Maybe, Baby, It's You with a skit from the show called "The Anniversary."
Other numbers performed included two pieces from TRU president Ost ("A Little Love" and Heather MacRae's rendition of "Hard Drivin' Woman"), Seth Weinstein and Jonathan Karp's song of childhood fears "The Boy in the City" from Heart Throb, Margaret Wakely Harris' version of "Will I Know You?" by Peggy Gordon, Michael Leeds and Brian Lesser from Mating Habits of the Urban Mammal, the friendship-questioning "I'd Like To Know" from the Charles Colby Sachs-Cassie Angley musical, Hungry!, the Colby Sach-Cheryl Davis cry against slavery "Chains" from the Civil War musical Sugar Dumpling sung by Prymus, and "What a Promise Means" from the Mark Weiser musical Feeding the Machine sung by Matt Bogart.
The final number, "Good Company," by Sheldon Harnick and Fred Wells, and sung by Vickie Philips, Bowling, Stewart and Paul Niemi, summed up the evening with its hopeful message, that despite failure, "if you're still here, standing tall, you're in good company."
The final event of the evening was the raffle drawing by Broadway's Terrence Mann (Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables). Prizes included dinners for two, tickets to The Public Theater's The Wild Party as well as Amadeus and Forbidden Broadway and subscriptions to Backstage and the New Group's current season.
A silent auction featured tickets to shows like Swing!, Arms And The Man and Chicago, autographed posters from The Lion King, Titanic, Kiss Me, Kate, Fosse and more, nine Original Cast Records releases including Christiane Noll's latest, Starmites, In Trousers and Love's Fowl, and beauty baskets from Avon, Sally Hansen and Escada.
Ost drew the night together by speaking of TRU's mission to "support [writers] in their dreams and help them have the best shot in making their dreams come true." The money raised at this benefit, Ost said, would be used to do three musical and four play developmental readings, funds not yet at the level to do workshops.
Begun eight and a half years ago, TRU threw its second fund-raising Cabaret Benefit March 6. The group's other programs include meetings and talks, networking opportunities and theatre discounts. For more information on TRU, call (212) 714-7628.
-- By Christine Ehren