Tuesday August 2, 2011

LENOX -- Some bright lights from the big city will illuminate the 400-seat Founders' Theatre at Shakespeare & Company later this month when performers present a "Broadway in the Berkshires" show to benefit the theater troupe's education and training programs.

The event will be staged at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 15.

The fundraising goal is $50,000, said producer Deborah Grausman, an actor and singer based in New York City and Stockbridge. The host, Broadway performer Chip Zien, and other participants are donating their services.

Grausman's Berkshire roots include 13 summers as a camper and counselor at the Belvoir Terrace arts camp in Lenox, one season at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute's vocal program, and a summer as an apprentice at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge.

She has helped organize a "Broadway Cares: Actors Fight AIDS" benefit held in Washington, D.C.

Actress Annette Miller, who appears often on local and Boston stages, urged her to attend the month-long January intensive training program this past winter at Shakespeare & Company, "a full actor training in voice, body and psyche," Grausman said.

"They do so much, not just with their training program, which is first-rate, but also the education program," said Grausman.

"I was terrified for years, I had never done Shakespeare except for reading these plays in school. I always thought it was so daunting, but Shakespeare's text is meant to be heard out loud. So once we started performing it, getting it in our voices and bodies, it was not as scary as I thought.


Advertisement

"

In late May, months after Grausman proposed the idea, Artistic Director Tony Simotes gave her the green light for the ambitious project. She called upon her many colleagues and contacts in New York's music-theater world as well as local business sponsors to put together the event.

The show is on a Monday night because that's the dark night for Shakespeare & Company as well as Broadway.

"We have people finishing matinees on Sunday, jumping in their cars and coming up," said Grausman.

Rehearsals and sound checks will be compressed into five hours on the day of the benefit performance.

Heading the creative team are Zien, the host, whose credits include "Into the Woods," "Les Miserables," "Falsettos," and "The Boys from Syracuse," Director Sam Scalamoni ("Disney's Beauty and the Beast") and Music Director Paul Staroba ("Next to Normal," "A Little Night Music," "Grey Gardens") lead the creative team. The stage manager is Kat West of the New York City Opera, Altar Boyz and the Prospect Theatre Company.

Among the musicians taking part are Owen Young, the Boston Symphony cellist who often performs with James Taylor, and Pittsfield-based percussionist Chris Mattoon.

Cast members include Peter Mazurowski (one of the boys starring as Billy in "Billy Elliot"), Rachel de Benedet ("Catch Me If You Can," "The Addams Family," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," and "Nine"), Kearran Giovanni ("Catch Me If You Can," "Finian's Rainbow," "Guys and Dolls"), Karmine Alers ("Rent"), and a dozen others, including Grausman, who recently performed in the "Fiddler on the Roof" national tour, and members of Shakespeare & Company.

The program includes a mix of Broadway favorites, including selections from "Rent," Cole Porter's "Kiss Me Kate," and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," as well as contemporary theater songs.

A post-performance dinner reception in the Iredale Lobby at the adjacent Bernstein Center for the Performing Arts is catered by Michael Roller of Savory Harvest Catering in Pittsfield, with desserts donated by Haven Cafe & Bakery in Lenox.

"We are delighted to have this all-star cast perform here at Shakespeare & Company," said Simotes in a prepared statement. "I am extraordinarily grateful to Deborah Grausman for having pulled out all stops to assemble such an impressive group of artists. Shakespeare & Company is all about artistic excellence, and seeing such a talented group of actors donating their time to help support the next generation of actors who are coming up through our education and training programs touches me deeply."

If you go

What: "Broadway in the Berkshires," a benefit for the training and education programs of Shakespeare & Company.

When: Monday, Aug. 15, 6 p.m.

Where: Founders' Theatre and Bernstein Center for the Performing Arts, 70 Kemble St., Lenox.

Prices: Individual tickets, $100 for the performance only, $250 (adding the dinner reception and a program listing), $500 (adding premium seating and an after-party with the cast), and $1,000 (two premium tickets, the dinner reception, the cast party, program listing and a signed cast poster).

Information: (413) 637-1199, ext. 117, or www.shakespeare.org.