I hope you will join us for what may truly be the most honest and authentic performance this year thus far: Robby Benson’s Open Heart, June 20-29 at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, www.fairfieldacc.com. Please take a moment to read Allen Cobb’s letter—his words are too good not to pass on.
The future of our new Arts & Convention Center in Fairfield depends more than a little on the success of the musical theater program, and the upcoming musical Open Heart is more than a little special. I want to make sure everyone is aware of the next big show at the Sondheim, and in particular why it is so unusual for Fairfield, and why even those with only a passing interest in musicals might not want to miss it.
The show is Open Heart, from the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. The book, the musical, the lyrics, and the music were all created by Robby Benson, whom you probably remember from innumerable film and TV appearances (Harry & Son with Paul Newman, Tribute with Jack Lemmon, The Chosen with Rod Steiger, Ode to Billy Joe, etc., and of course the voice of the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), and who has also written and/or directed dozens more shows. In fact, he’s been involved in a TV or theatrical show every year of his life since 1971 (imdb.com). And I can tell you that Robby’s score for Open Heart is both accessible and very satisfying and sophisticated.
Robby’s amazing wife, Karla DeVito, co-stars with him in this exclusive Midwest engagement. You may remember her from the all-time rock megahit “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” which she co-sung with Meatloaf in the late 1970s. Actually, she didn’t “sing” that song—she nearly blew Meatloaf off the stage (no mean feat).
Robby and Karla are joined by Stan Brown, of whom the NY Daily News said, “Brown brings a showbiz razzmatazz to everything,” and AP said, “A truly dazzling performance by Brown.”
The cast is rounded out with a group of stunning performers from Randy West’s first annual musical theater internship program at the Sondheim Center.
Mature Audience Warning: This is not a show for the kids. But this is a show with heart.
It’s worth noting that Robby is a recipient of the Heart of a Child Award from the Heart of a Child Foundation, which supports research and treatment for congenital heart defects. He was a major supporter of the Kennedy/Hatch bill to ban promotion of cigarettes to minors. He has established the Robby Benson’s Hoops for Hope benefits at the USC Pediatrics department, and he’s national spokesperson for the Batten Disease Support and Research Association. He has also worked extensively with mentally challenged performers in Canada, and serves on the Western Council of the Actor’s Fund of America.
A Personal Note
I’m writing because I’ve invested a lot of time and (for me) a lot of money in the FACC, and I believe it will become the catalyst we’ve been waiting for that will (a) bring a lot of Fairfield’s creativity out into full view in new synergistic ways, and (b) become our most powerful magnet for attracting business and investment from far beyond this amazing little town.
What You May Not Already Know
The FACC was not established to produce musical theatre. What’s more, the musical theater program itself was not set up specifically for us—it came into being primarily to provide support for all the other programs and events at the center.
The theory is this: a town our size can’t afford a facility of this scale—but we’d really love to have one anyway. So, to support it, we must win affluent audiences from the surrounding cities. And they must be willing to pay for urban level professional entertainment. (While “urban prices” may be out of reach for many of us in town, so far every show has been able to offer at least some performances at very deep discounts.)
Think of tourists visiting New York, where there are thousands of entertainment opportunities. Nearly everyone goes to a show. What kind of show? Musical theater, by a very wide margin, with ticket prices often well into three digits. Musical theater isn’t like going to a movie—it’s something special that people value much more highly, and remember for years to come.
So the FACC Board hired Randy West, who is amazingly experienced and well-connected in professional musical theater, and whose first act was to obtain the endorsement of Stephen Sondheim, one of the most important creators in the genre. This alone was a public relations coup worth millions, and has made waves from Hollywood to Broadway. Randy’s summer internship program now underway is another part of the project, and is making Fairfield into a resource for colleges and universities across the country.
I hope you will lend your support, ideally by helping to attract more folks from the surrounding area to our shows, and also by attending and providing feedback to Randy, to the Sondheim Center, and to the FACC Board.
Those of you who know me will recognize that I am very selective in supporting things. As President of the Board of ICON (Iowa Contemporary Art, at http://www.icon-art.org), as a contributor to the center, and as a citizen of Fairfield, I feel very strongly that the FACC is a vital new component in the cultural and economic future of our town. The FACC is barely half a year old now, still “mewling and puking in its mother’s arms” a bit, but already a potential superstar in the Midwest.
Thanks for listening,