Actor Donna Drake, far right, works with Julius E. Spruave School fourth graders at St. John School of the Arts on a “Stars Wars” segment for the upcoming annual “Hooray for Hollywood” Broadway Comes to St. John fundraising event.
Fourth graders across the island are rigorously perfecting their pitch and developing their dance moves in anticipation of what will surely be a dazzling show for the St. John School of the Arts’ major annual fundraiser, Broadway Comes to St. John on Friday, February 14, and Saturday, February 15.
Although specifics of the show are being kept under wraps, the theme — Hooray for Hollywood — has been announced.
“The show will explore many decades of movies,” said SJSA Executive Director Kim Wild. “I don’t want to spoil it, but Saturday Night Fever and the Wizard of Oz are just some of the films that will be featured in the show.”
The students are being coached by five Broadway actors who have been coming to St. John to work on the SJSA fundraiser for four years now. Actors Donna Drake, John Tartaglia, Rhonda Miller, Michael Shawn Lewis, and Laura Barnao donate their time and energy teaching the students, coming up with ideas for the shows, and transporting and making props in an effort whose idea was originally conceived by St. John resident Ronnie Lee.
“It really started with me being stuck in traffic in New York City,” said Lee, who has extensive Broadway experience from his childhood, when he appeared in the original production of The King and I and in West Side Story, to his adulthood, when he started his own wholesale theater ticket company. “My mind wandered back to the warmth of St. John, and I wondered what we could possibly do to make things better and healthier at the School of the Arts. I came up with the idea of asking Broadway actors to come down and work with the students, and it’s been a successful partnership since then.”
This year’s show is sure to be better than ever, with the Hooray for Hollywood theme extending to the audience.
SJSA Executive Director Kim Wild, above left, with Kazumi Schaub hold the “Golden Conch” award, which will be given to the evening’s best “Oscar” dressed male or female.
“We want to create an Oscar night-style event for our guests,” said Wild. “We’re asking everyone to dress up in their designer wear, either to look like a notable Hollywood star, or like the star that you are. We’ll have a red carpet, and St. John Tradewinds’ Jaime Elliott will be the red carpet reporter, asking incoming guests who they’re wearing.”
The fourth graders, who started work on their performances last week, are already feeling the excitement of the show.
“It’s really fun doing all the dances and the music lessons,” said Gifft Hill School fourth grader Noah Gessner.
“I love the dancing because we get to move a lot,” said GHS fourth grader Safa Monsanto.
Although the actors spend hours each weekday working with students at schools across the island, their enthusiasm for the fundraiser show is unwavering.
“Back in New York, we’ve got work to do and we need to make a living, but this reminds us why we do what we do,” said Tartaglia. “We’re getting to affect their level of self confidence and help them believe in themselves and the way they look at their futures.”
“I’ve had a wonderful career on Broadway, but seeing these children as they go through this process makes me realize this has nothing to do with me,” said Drake. “Art is eternal; you really do pass it on.”
Broadway Comes to St. John will debut with a friends and family night on February 14, when the suggested donation is $20 per person. The premiere show is set for February 15 at the Westin. Tickets are $200 and include a champagne reception and dinner after the show. For more information, visit www.stjohnschoolofthearts.org.