For the past 10 years, musical theatre studio Lights of Broadway has been an integral part of the North Okanagan performing arts community, bringing in first-class Broadway shows to the local stage.
Some of those memorable musicals include Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Wiz, Peter Pan, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, and most recently, Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The shows have not only featured the talents of young singers, dancers, and actors, they have been professional-like undertakings –– complete with full-on sets, costumes, sound and lighting –– that have used up a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
However, this year’s production –– a salute to the roaring ‘20s in the Tony award winning Thoroughly Modern Millie –– also used up a lot of the studio’s finances due to poor tickets sales.
Lights of Broadway founder Charity Van Gameren, who operates both the musical theatre and her vocal studios out of the Vernon Community Music School, attributes part of the reason to a poorer economy and a relatively unknown show.
“This year has been an exceptionally hard year for the performing arts in our community and Lights of Broadway finds itself for the first time since its inception needing to raise funds to cover the costs of our recent production,” she said.
To make ends meet, and further future productions, the Lights of Broadway community is pulling together to offer three fund-raising concerts over the next three weeks.
“I, as the founding director of this program, am asking Vernon and area to please come to any or all of these wonderful concerts and support very worthwhile local community theatre programs,” said Van Gameren. “We live in such a beautiful city and have an incredible talent base that makes this area an even more desirable place to live. Let’s continue to keep the performing arts alive.”
The first fundraiser will see the Vernon Community Music School’s Carriage House Loft transformed into a starlit dream-scape for The Starlight Serenade, starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4.
The event starts with a wine and cheese reception and then features an evening of music ranging from pop, classical and jazz performed by students of Van Gameren, both in voice lessons and in Lights of Broadway, as well as studio supporters.
Performers include Kimberley van Wensem, Steve Friesen, Mica Lemiski, Karina Hettler, Stephanie Stewart, Samantha Harper as well as Van Gameren.
Tickets are a suggested minimum donation of $25 each, available at the VCMS or at the door.
A second benefit featuring rising recording artists, Drive by Dreamer and Mica Lemiski, will be presented at the Powerhouse Theatre June 12 at 7:30 p.m. (Tickets are by a suggested $10 donation at the door.)
Drive By Dreamer is actually the alter ego of Brandon Dorsey, a young singer/songwriter, originally from Armstrong, who starred as lead character Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
He is releasing his debut album, Reverie, which he describes as a mix between the passionate, emotional storytelling of acts such as Dashboard Confessional and City and Colour with the fun pop sounds of Owl City and NeverShoutNever.
“My hope is that you’ll hear these songs and relate to them,” said Dorsey. “To put a smile on your face and brighten your day makes this all worthwhile.”
Lemiski is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Vernon who has been performing in the community for many years as well as writing her own music since she was 11 years old.
A former student of Van Gameren’s, Lemiski was last seen in Lights of Broadway’s productions of Joseph (as the narrator) and The Sound of Music (as Baroness Schraeder). She was also a top 10 finalist in the Our Kids Have Talent music competition in 2010 and 2009, and also won third place in the IPE Youth Talent Competition.
Lemiski recorded her first CD last summer, an album that contains 14 of her original compositions. She just finished her first year of studies at McGill University in Montreal, where she had been a member of the Montreal-based a cappella group, Soulstice A Cappella.
In order to further pursue her music, Lemiski is transferring to the University of Western Ontario in London to major in the popular music studies program this fall.
“I am happy to be back in the Okanagan this summer and anxious to perform for the people I love the most,” she said.
The final fundraiser features the swingin’ styles of the Mark Rose Swing Band.
The Swing into Summer Dance, Wine and Dine will take place at St. James Parish Hall (in St. James school), June 18 from 8 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $15 each at the door or at the VCMS.
All donations to Lights of Broadway are tax deductible, and those wishing to reserve tickets in advance, or needing more information, can call the Vernon Community Music School at (250) 545-4977.