25th Anniversary S.T.A.G.E. Benefit

The Music of the Brothers Gershwin
March 21 & 22 to Benefit APLA

The 25th Annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event–S.T.A.G.E–will present THE BROTHERS GERSHWIN—GEORGE & IRA as its silver anniversary event on Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22 at the Wilshire Theatre Beverly Hills. S.T.A.G.E. is the world’s longest continuously running AIDS benefit. Net proceeds from the annual event benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), an organization now in its 26th year of providing direct services and HIV/AIDS prevention education throughout Los Angeles County.

    Each year, artists from theater, television, film and cabaret donate their time and talent to this popular event.  Included on list this year are Broadway stars-on-the-rise John Lloyd Young, Michael K. Lee and Shoshana Bean.  A New York theater actor, John Lloyd Young won national acclaim for his role as Frankie Valli in the original Broadway production of “Jersey Boys” as well as the Lead Actor Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards. Michael K. Lee, who has worked extensively with East West Players in productions such as “Pacific Overtures” and “Beijing Spring,” has earned high praise for his roles in Broadway productions, including “Miss Saigon,” “Rent” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  With credits that include the original cast of the Tony Award-winning production of “Hairspray,” Shoshana Bean garnered nationwide attention for her role as the witch “Elphaba” in the hit musical “Wicked,” while her recently released debut CD—“Superhero”—is an R&B hit.

Adding to the list of star performers at this year’s event will be “High School Musical” co-star Lucas Grabeel, “American Idol” runner-up Kimberley Locke and Broadway veterans Betty Garrett, Carole Cook and Pat Marshall.   The cast from the long-running musical “Forever Plaid”—Jeremy Bernard, David Engel, Roger Befeler & Larry Rabin—will also appear at the two performances.  Comedy legend Bruce Vilanch, who starred in “Hairspray” on Broadway and in its national tour, as well as R&B singer Nita Whitaker will also perform.

Also slated to perform are Ian Abercrombie, pianist Allen Barton, the duo Baul Point Pen featuring Paul Peglar and Ben McLain, Mary Jo Catlett, James Darren, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Loretta Devine, Sam Harris, Bill Hutton, Vicki Lewis, John Maher, Linda Michele, Valarie Pettiford, Stefanie Powers, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” host Jai Rodriguez, and Dee Wallace.   

David Galligan, recipient of LA Stage Alliance’s 2005 Ovation Award for Career Achievement, will direct the production, as he has since the event premiered 25 years ago.  Musical direction will be provided by Mary Ekler and Jerry Sternbach.

The name Gershwin is synonymous with American Musical Theater and some of the 20th Century’s most memorable songs.  George and Ira combined their talents on over a dozen Broadway shows, beginning with 1924’s “Lady Be Good,” and four musical films.  Their work has resonated for generations and includes legendary songs such as “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “They Can’t Take that Away from Me,” “Our Love is Here to Stay” and “Summertime.”

Since 1996, S.T.A.G.E. has recognized performers, philanthropists, businesses, organizations and individuals for their dedicated work in the fight against AIDS with the “S.T.A.G.E. Producers Award.”  Stephen Sondheim was the first recipient, and last year S.T.A.G.E. honored award-winning actress Doris Roberts and community activist Brenda R. Freiberg.  This year, the 2009 S.T.A.G.E. Producers Award will be presented to Michael Kearns.  An actor, writer, producer, director, teacher and one of the four co-founders of S.T.A.G.E., Kearns is being honored for his long-standing commitment to worldwide battle against HIV/AIDS. 

S.T.A.G.E. has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS organizations throughout the Southern California over the last 25 years.  One hundred percent of the net proceeds from THE BROTHERS GERSHWIN—GEORGE & IRA will go to AIDS Project Los Angeles.  One of largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the United States, APLA provides bilingual direct support services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation.  Founded by four friends in 1982, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach.

Performances of THE BROTHERS GERSHWIN—GEORGE & IRA are set for Saturday, March 21 at 8PM and Sunday, March 22 at 3PM at the Wilshire Theatre Beverly Hills, located at 8440 Wilshire Blvd.