Two-time Tony Award winner and musical theatre legend Chita Rivera and 2019 Tony Award winner for Best Featured Actress in a Play Celia Keenan-Bolger will, together, headline the Broadway Back to School Gala, a benefit for the Educational Theatre Foundation. In its 5th year, the Broadway Back to School Gala will take place on September 22, 2019 at 6:30 PM at the Edison Ballroom. The event will celebrate Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who were among the first creative leaders in the industry to recognize that the involvement of young students in theatre was essential for their success in school and life, as well as for the progress and growth of the industry.
Chita Rivera has appeared in a major Broadway musical at least once every decade since the 1950s. She originated the role of Anita in the benchmark musical West Side Story, then went on to become one of Broadway’s most-reliable and talented triple threat leading ladies. She has starred in such musicals as Bye Bye Birdie, Bajour, Chicago, Bring Back Birdie, Nine, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and The Visit. She has two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical for The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Celia Keenan-Bolger is currently wowing audiences as “Scout” in Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. A veteran of stage plays and musicals, Broadway audiences have also enjoyed her performances in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Les Miserables, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Glass Menagerie, and The Cherry Orchard. Joining Keenan-Bolger as co-host of the event will be Brannon Evans of Omaha, Nebraska (Pictured above with Celia Keenan-Bolger). As a high school senior, Evans won the 2019 International Thespian Society Democracyworks essay contest, writing about how performing in To Kill a Mockingbird in her school impacted and inspired her. When the Broadway company of To Kill a Mockingbird staged a reading at the Library of Congress for D.C. area Thespians for Theatre in Our Schools Month, Evans was on-hand and read her essay to them, earning an opportunity to join in the staged reading with the Broadway cast, as well as a $10,000 scholarship from the production.
Other performers who will be adding to the event’s allure include Will Pullen (To Kill a Mockingbird), performing a scene written by a Thespian student writer; Drama Desk Award nominee Evan Rugerrio, an amazing tapper who lost a leg to cancer while in college but has continued to do what he loves; Alex Stone, Thespian alum and recent graduate of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music; and J. Harrison Ghee, from Broadway’s Kinky Boots, appearing as Crystal Demure.
“Broadway Back to School is the only event where professional artists not only share their talents, they also share behind-the-scenes stories of how they got their high school starts, as inspiring as the high school Thespians with whom they’ll perform. (Thespians are members of the International Thespian Society, the honor organization for middle and high school theatre students, with 2.4 million alums, currently celebrating its 90th anniversary.)”
Tickets to Broadway Back to School can be purchased online at the Educational Theatre Foundation.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.