TBT presents Broadway-themed fundraiser

Thunder Bay Theatre is giving the community a chance to hear favorite songs from some of Broadway’s best-known shows.

At the same time, patrons attending TBT’s Return to Broadway event this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. will be supporting the theatre since the show has been planned as a major fundraiser. Money generated from admissions will be put toward future TBT productions.

Thirteen familiar actors, including core company members and other local performers, will be belting out show tunes that come from Broadway productions with a specific focus: only the years 1985 to 1999.

“What it is more or less, from the years 1981 to 1985, Broadway wasn’t doing as well as it had in the past,” said TBT Artistic Director J.R. Rodriguez. “The only show that was doing extremely well was ‘Cats,’ which opened in 1981.

That all changed, according to Rodriguez, with the introduction of “Les Miserables,” first in London in 1985 and then on Broadway in 1986.

“From ‘Les Miserables’ started a string of shows that were huge,” he said. “You had ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘Rent,’ ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Miss Saigon’ and ‘Titanic.’ People fell in love with Broadway again.”

It is the songbooks from these shows and others from the same time period that will be featured on Saturday. Rodriguez is teaming up with Marlo Broad for the opening number, “Our Children” from “Ragtime.” Other performers have chosen songs that are their own personal favorites from many of these big name productions.

“The first act is songs from these wonderful shows,” said Rodriguez. “The performers picked out the song they wanted to do. They all have special meaning to each performer.”

Besides he and Broad, others lending their vocal talents to the fundraiser are LeShawn Bell, Kevin Ray Johnson, Colin Marshall, Mariah Purol, Ashley Timmreck, Riley McGuire, Dylan Goike, Hannah Matzke, Mackenzie Fountain, Sandi Schmidt and Zach Clement. Serving as the narrator for the evening will be Carol Rundell.

“This was an incredible time for Broadway and what ‘Les Miserables’ brought. It revolutionized Broadway,” said Rodriguez. “You had a battle between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steven Sondheim over who could be better with ‘Cats,’ ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Into the Woods.’ You got to see two of the world’s greatest composers take shots at one another. Both did their best to capture the electricity that was ‘Les Mis.’ To me, it was some of the best music ever written.”

He also noted that with these newer shows, the stories were a little darker than the more standard fare like “Music Man” or “Kiss Me Kate.”

“They seemed to have more substance,” he said.

Rodriguez opted to keep the second act a big surprise for patrons attending the show. He is hoping for a great turnout so that the theatre can continue to offer the public a wide variety of comedies, musicals and dramas.

Tickets to attend TBT’s “Return to Broadway” are $10 each. The evening includes hors d’oeuvres, courtesy of John Benson.

To make reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267.