After a month of intense training, rehearsals and production meetings, when the curtain in the Westin Resorts and Villas ballroom rose on Friday evening, January 27, it was show time for “World of Dreams.”
The St. John School of the Arts fundraiser show brought in more than $45,000 for the school and amazed audiences who raved about the original musical production.
Five Broadway actors, Michael Shawn Lewis, John Tartaglia, Laura Barnao, Rhonda Miller and Donna Drake, donated countless hours of their time and paid for their own travel expenses — which included several trips back to New York City for gigs — to support the second annual SJSA fundraiser, Broadway Comes to St. John.
While last year’s Broadway Comes to St. John was a success, this year’s show brought in about $10,000 more in fundraising for SJSA.
The brainchild of SJSA board of directors member Ronnie Lee, the fundraiser brought together top Broadway actors with fourth grade students at all three St. John schools to work in a collaborative, not competitive, atmosphere.
The actors spent about 40 hours each week for three weeks at Guy Benjamin, Gifft Hill and Julius E. Sprauve Schools working on the original musical production “World of Dreams.” After three weeks of intense work, the students wowed the audience at both the 6 and 8 p.m. performances of the musical.
Audience members at the 6 p.m. show paid $200 for angel tickets, which included dinner at one of Cruz Bay’s top restaurants and a champagne reception following the show. SJSA sold 101 angel tickets and 150 raffle tickets, at $100 each, for the chance to win a three-night stay in New York City, with theater tickets and dinners.
The 8 p.m. performance of “World of Dreams” drew more than 230 people, who offered donations of their choice, which totaled $1,800 by the end of the night. In total, the Broadway Comes to St. John fundraiser brought in $45,417 for the island’s arts school.
The fundraiser was a success on several levels. First of all the students’ performances were impressive, bringing the audience to its feet several times during the production.
“My favorite part of the whole project was definitely watching the show,” said SJSA acting director Kim Wild. “It was really magical to see it all come together in an amazing performance. I had been seeing pieces of it and then sometimes I went to rehearsal and things weren’t going as smoothly as I would have liked.”
“But then all of a sudden, it’s lights, camera, action and the audience is there and the atmosphere changes,” said Wild. “It’s just magical. There is really no other word for it.”
Lee agreed that Love City’s fourth graders more than rose to high standard which was expected.
“I’m more than gratified that the audience reaction was a resounding success and that the children made us all so proud,” said Lee. “In short, the kids were amazing.”
While the audience and SJSA officials enjoyed the production, the real success of the night was the $45,000 raised which will allow the school to continue its classes and expand a mentoring through music program, explained Wild.
“The funds raised through Broadway Comes to St. John will allow us to keep on doing what we’re doing and even try to expand,” she said. “The Mentoring Through the Arts of Music which was started by Dion Parsons on St. Thomas last year was one program that needed funding. The program is now territory-wide and our director of music education Eddie Bruce is our instructor.”
“It’s basically a youth band for kids who show proclivity and commitment to music,” said Wild. “In March Dion Parsons and Victor Provost, who are both members of the 21st Century Band, will be here to give a week-long workshop and that program needed funding too.”
Broadway Comes to St. John also offered the island’s fourth graders an amazing opportunity to work with world-renowned actors, dancers, singers and choreographers. While the next Baryshnikov might not have been discovered, many students raved about the program being fun, while also honing their concentration, memorization and collaboration skills.
With so many positive outcomes from Broadway Comes to St. John, residents can expect SJSA to bring the program back for a third time next year, but this time with a twist on angel and raffle tickets, explained Lee.
“Although the date isn’t set yet, you can count on a sparkling new production of Broadway Comes to St. John, in February or March, starring next year’s 4th grade students,” he said. “A new twist on the dine-around is being considered. Stay tuned for more news.”
Instead of a St. John Goes to Broadway raffle — which Susan and Miles Stair won this time — next year’s raffle prize will send one lucky winner to London, Lee added.
“With a St. John Goes to London raffle already planned for next year, we expect to set a new fundraising record,” he said. “The value of the package will be in the neighborhood of $10,000. You can anticipate round-trip air fare for two from any city served by American Airlines from the Continental U.S. or St. Thomas, an outstanding, luxury Starwood Hotel for seven nights in London, theatre tickets and a dinner for two at one of London’s top restaurants and other enticing goodies.”
No one will want to miss opportunity!
For more information about SJSA or to find out how to support the school, call 779-4322 or check out their web site at www.stjohnschoolofthearts.org.