Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Michael Cerveris, Matthew Morrison and Kelli O’Hara Lend Vocal Talents for 52nd Street Project’s 2010 Benefit on 5/10

Peter Jay Fernandez and his wife Denise Burse have had a special place in their hearts for the kids of The 52nd St. Project for almost two decades. Photo by Lia Chang

Peter Jay Fernandez and his wife Denise Burse have had a special place in their hearts for the kids of The 52nd St. Project for almost two decades. Photo by Lia Chang

I’ve been invited to The 52nd Street Project’s Spring Sing Thing: A Garden Variety Benefit at Espace on Monday, May 10, 2010, by my good friend and colleague actress Denise Burse (Angela’s Mixtape, Claretha on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne). For almost two decades, she and her husband Peter Jay Fernandez, who recently appeared in Yussef El Guindi’s Language Rooms at the Wilma Theater, and has a recurring role on FX’s Damages, have volunteered their time and talent as two of the countless professional theater artists who are matched up with kids in a series of unique mentoring programs for The 52nd Street Project. The Project’s mission is dedicated to the creation and production of new plays for and by kids between the ages of nine and eighteen that reside in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in New York City.

The evening’s festivities will be emceed by Martha Plimpton, and will feature a bouquet of songs with lyrics written by kids of the Project and music supplied by professional artists. Included on the lineup is the work of lyricists Adnan Ahmed, Brandon Leon, Wendell Joseph, Melissa Rebolledo, and Elizabeth Vazquez, and composers Brian Lowdermilk (Henry and Mudge), Jeanine Tesori (Caroline or Change, Shrek The Musical) and Tom Kitt (Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Next to Normal).

Singers Michael Cerveris (Tony for Assassins), Matthew Morrison (Glee), James Monroe Iglehart (currently on Broadway in Memphis), Rebecca Naomi Jones (Passing Strange, American Idiot), Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific, Light in the Piazza) and Greg Naughton (of the band The Sweet Remains) will lend their vocal talents.

Jonathan Bernstein is the Director and Kimberly Grigsby is the Music Director. The band will include Grigsby on keyboards and Jeff Potter on drums.

The Project was founded in 1981 by actor/playwright and 1994 MacArthur Fellow Willie Reale in response to a deepening need to improve the quality of life for New York’s inner-city children. Mr. Reale, an actor, playwright, and company member of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), used his company privileges to reach out to the children of the neighborhood by creating theatrical endeavors specifically for them. This was done with the cooperation and support of EST and its across-the-street-neighbor, the Police Athletic League’s Duncan Center. The Project is now an independent not-for-profit organization that creates over eighty new plays and serves over 115 children every year.

The 52nd Street Project recently opened a theater—the first of their own—at 789 Tenth Avenue between 52nd & 53rd Streets, in the Archstone-Clinton development. The facility’s opening is slated for late summer of this year.

The evening will begin at 7 pm with cocktails followed by dinner and the show. Tickets are $250 and $500 and can be reserved by calling 212-333-5252 x16. For further information, visit:

For further information, contact John Sheehy, Director of Development at The 52nd Street Project at (212) 333-5252 or Contributions are tax deductible except for $150 per ticket. All ticket orders will be held at the door. Proceeds from Spring Sing Thing will support the project’s original writing, performance and tutoring programs.

635 West 42nd St. btwn 11th & 12th Aves)
New York

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