Broadway talent to appear at Cinnabar’s big Bash

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What: Cinnabar’s Broadway Bash

When: Saturday, Feb. 23, 6 p.m.

Where: Ellis Auditorium, Petaluma campus of Santa Rosa Junior College

Cost: $75

Tickets:, or call box office, Wed-Fri 11-4 p.m., (707) 763-8920

Editor's Note:This version corrects an earlier version that incorrectly identified the event date. The correct date is Feb. 23.

For the first time, Cinnabar Theater will combine its professional and Young Repertory programs into the annual Broadway Bash, the theater’s major annual fundraiser, this year scheduled for Feb. 23. The musical revue will feature performances by popular professional singers and promising Young Rep kids of Broadway classics and new favorites.

“We’ve got a fabulous show lined up for the audience,” said Nathan Cummings, education director of the Young Rep. “If you like Broadway music, you’ll love this night.”

The Bash takes place at Ellis Auditorium on the Petaluma SRJC campus, and in addition to the big show, includes a large spread of locally-created food, an array of libations and both silent and live auctions with one-of-a-kind treasures. Cummings, who has been helping to organize the Bash again this year, has created, coordinated, and administered a number of theater activities for youth for more than 20 years.

Hosted by veteran Broadway and Bay Area actor Clark Sterling, the Bash will feature favorite Cinnabar actors, including Daniella Innocenti Beem, Mary Gannon-Graham and Michael Van Why. They will be joined onstage by many of Cinnabar’s Young Rep kids, performing a variety of duets and group numbers.

Cinnabar has been providing live opera, musicals and theater to Sonoma County for nearly 50 years. Less known is that the company’s Young Rep program has been training young people in stagecraft since 1983. The program began with just 36 students and now numbers almost 700. The Young Rep has consistently maintained a policy of never turning away an aspiring student for lack of funds.

“What makes Cinnabar special is how the professional company and the Young Rep support each other,” Cummings said. “Young Rep performers often appear in the professional productions. Also, the students see most of the professional shows, and most of the teaching staff work in both programs. Combining the two programs into our major fundraiser of the year is part of a natural progression.”

“I recently cast one of Nathan’s students, Grace Steckler, in our production of ‘Cabaret,’” said Elly Lichenstein, artistic director of Cinnabar. “And she was brilliant.”

Steckler will perform at the Bash along with other past and present members of the Young Rep.

Michael McGurk, a veteran singer-actor who originally emerged from the Young Rep, will visit from New York to offer a one-week workshop with selected Young Rep kids to create and polish a special number for the show.

The Bash will include lively testimonials from several Young Rep performers.

“For this part of the Bash, I look for kids who have grown in the program in important ways and would enjoy sharing their story with the audience,” Cummings said.

During the Bash, Cinnabar will announce the coming seasons of both the professional company and the Young Rep. Part of the Young Rep’s success comes from its focus on group effort rather than cultivating stars.

“We teach them teamwork and how to be part of an ensemble,” Lichenstein said.

“We have had many kids in the program who decided to make a career in theater, and they’re spread all around the country,” Cummings pointed out. Young Rep veteran Erin Ashe, for example, now has a career doing voice-over work in Los Angeles; she will sing at the Bash.

“But even more important is the effect the Young Rep has on the other participants,” Cummings said. “We take kids who at first can’t even look you in the eye, and we see them blossom into confident people comfortable in their own bodies.”

An important feature of the Young Rep program is its professionalism.

“Young Rep shows get the same focus as the professional shows,” Lichenstein said. “Same designers and technical support. The kids do four mainstage productions a year — three musicals and a play — with the full support of our staff.”

The next Young Rep production will be Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” opening March 8 with a cast of thirty-seven. “We focus on demystifying Shakespeare’s language for the performers,” Cummings said. “At its core, it’s a simple story, and given the chance the kids buy in.”

Another key to Cinnabar’s success in arousing interest in theater among young people is a program called Friday Night Live. For the last five years, the theater has invited middle and high school students to opening night of all professional shows. For a discounted ticket price of $9, they enjoy not only the show but pizza, and an introductory talk by one of the performers.

“We’ve had a great response to this, drawing up to forty kids for an opening,” Lichenstein said. “It’s one way we foster the audience of tomorrow.”


What: Cinnabar’s Broadway Bash

When: Saturday, Feb. 23, 6 p.m.

Where: Ellis Auditorium, Petaluma campus of Santa Rosa Junior College

Cost: $75

Tickets:, or call box office, Wed-Fri 11-4 p.m., (707) 763-8920

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