By Josette Keelor -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- This May, Shenandoah University is bringing Broadway to Winchester in a concert to benefit the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre. It also will honor both the university's strength in the theater world and its students and faculty.
Jack Rowles, who has performed on the stage at S.U. for years is spearheading a fundraiser that will bring together several S.U. graduates from the past 17 years who have made their way to Broadway.
"It's been good, we're just trying to get word out," Rowles said recently. "I'm coordinating the project and actually, honestly, it was my idea."
It started last summer when Rowles proposed the idea to S.U. Director Harold Herman, and Herman agreed.
He told Herman, "I'd love to put together a benefit concert for you."
According to Rowles, it didn't take much to convince his fellow performers to make the trek back to Winchester for the one-night event.
Not everyone who's interested has confirmed they're coming yet, and those who have confirmed might have last-minute conflicts, Rowles said.
"Pretty much everyone who fits that criteria is [filled] with a desire to do that," Rowles said.
For now he's expecting five former S.U. students to perform that night: Kathy Voytko, J. Robert Spencer, Kris Koop, Aaron Galligan-Stierle and Rick Costa.
It's a 95 percent certainty they'll be there, Rowles said.
"They're all gonna sing. It's basically a concert," Rowles said. "They're terrific, they're amazing, and my plan is for them to do anything they want to do."
In a benefit concert when everyone signs on to do it pro bono, he said, last-minute difficulties can arise.
Spencer, who has performed in "Next to Normal" and "Jersey Boys" on Broadway, currently is touring with "Midtown Men" with four stars from "Jersey Boys," Rowles said, adding that Spencer is excited about performing at S.U.
"He's totally fired up about it," Rowles said.
Voytko has performed on Broadway in "Oklahoma," "Nine" and "The Pirate Queen" and, according to Rowles, will be in "Prince of Broadway" this fall.
Costa is in "Cabaret" on Broadway, and Koop and Galligan-Stierle currently are in "Phantom of the Opera." Koop and Galligan-Stierle have off that Sunday, Rowles said, so they plan to make the drive to and from Virginia for the Sunday night performance.
"I am a graduate. I've also performed in numerous plays at the summer theater," Rowles said, unable to nail down how many. "I've lost track, it's so many."
For this summer's music theater, S.U. has lined up "Legally Blonde: The Musical," "9 to 5: The Musical," "Peter Pan" and "Greece," Rowles said.
"I'm not able to come back," said Rowles, who's working on "Capital Steps," a musical political satire. "It's an election year. ... Starting in September I'll be doing a different city every night."
The gig will last two to three months this fall, leading up to the election.
Still, though he won't be at S.U. in body this summer, he'll be there in spirit.
"This benefit concert ... we're raising money for the theater and we're raising awareness," Rowles said.
He and the other singers also want to honor Herman, "and all that he's done for all the performers ... that he's nurtured throughout the years," Rowles said.
"It's just time to do it. It's the 29th season for Shenandoah," he said.
"We're bringing Broadway to Winchester," he said. "We're seven weeks out."
Tickets for the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre benefit concert at 7 p.m. on May 20 are available for $30 at www.shenandoahsummermusictheatre.com.