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Give my regards: SPA fundraiser to highlight Broadway hits

Auditions for the School of Performing Arts’ (SPA) fundraiser concert start on Oct. 6. This will be the school’s third annual fundraiser concert and will be held in January 2016.

“Astonishing: The Songs and Stories of Broadway’s Best” will feature popular Broadway tunes such as “Not for the Life of Me,” “Corner of the Sky,” “Mister Snow,” “Impossible” and more.

The fundraiser will feature Stephanie Burkett Gerson, a special guest artist from New York. Originally from Southern California, Gerson now lives in New York City and has starred in national tours, Christmas and Broadway style reviews and cabarets, according to her website.

The first fundraiser concert was held in Hauck Auditorium in 2014 and it was completely sold out, so it was necessary to relocate to a larger venue. This year will be the second year that the event is held in the Collins Center for the Arts.

Music director and conductor Ben McNaboe expects this year’s concert to be even more successful than in previous years.

“Last year, we chose to do big band music,” McNaboe said. “This year we decided on Broadway showtunes. Grace Cramer stepped into an artist-producer role and we worked a lot on what direction we wanted to go this year. While at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick over the summer, we picked the theme. A story goes with each song we picked.”

Not only is the theme appealing to a larger audience at the university, but a big part of drawing students in is the guest performer.

“Bringing in the special guest artist really helps,” McNaboe said. “We were seeing people at the fundraiser who weren’t just music majors. I’m so happy to see non-music majors audition, as well. They are just as likely to get cast as music majors.”

Morgan Cates will be the host for the event while also serving as the managing producer. Cates has hosted the SPA fundraiser since its first production in January 2014.

“This production is always a blast, but this year’s program promises to raise the bar even higher,” Cates said. “The highlight for me is the fact that my dear friend Grace Livingston-Kramer will be joining me as co-host. Grace is no stranger to this production. She has been a regular soloist and a very active member of our steering committee, so hosting the show alongside her is really a treat.”

A large amount of the proceeds of the fundraiser goes toward outreach programs and initiatives of the School of Performing Arts, which work to put university students into public school classrooms.

“Music programs across America are facing constant budget woes,” Cates said. “The fact that we can provide students with first-hand exposure to the arts is a very worthy cause.”

Katie Lees, a fourth-year psychology student, performed in the fundraiser concert last year and will be auditioning again this year.

“It was the first time I had performed a solo backed by full orchestra and jazz band,” Lees said. “Regardless of whether I make it into the show or not, this year’s fundraiser will be a fantastic show. The music selections and guest artist are something you can’t get anywhere else at UMaine. I highly encourage anyone to attend.”

Auditions will be held Oct. 6 in Room 341 in the Class of 1944 Hall. For auditions, students are asked to prepare one Broadway-style selection such as the songs from the concert program. A sign-up sheet for auditions is located outside of SPA’s main office in room 208. For more information or sheet music, students can contact Ben McNaboe on FirstClass.

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