(CINCINNATI, October 15, 2019) — An all-star cast will join the previously announced Tony Award-winner Bernadette Peters at the Thespians Go Hollywood gala on November 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Avalon Hollywood. Rachel Bloom, Brandy, Merle Dandridge, Megan Hilty, Jennifer Kumiyama, Mandy Moore, and Matthew Morrison are set to perform at the annual Los Angeles event supporting the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF), which provides financial support to increase access and equity in school theatre education programs. The festivities will be hosted by Nia Vardalos and John Stamos.
They are joined by high school student Thespians in this unique evening of entertainment. Thespians Go Hollywood is the only West Coast event where professional artists share their talents alongside behind-the-scenes stories of how they got started in school theatre, stories 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.)
A highlight of the evening is the presentation of the Craig Zadan Theatre for Life Award to honoree Bernadette Peters in recognition of an individual who has dedicated their life to promoting and preserving the joy of theatre, inspiring young artists, and leaving a lasting impact on generations to come. The award is named after the late producer Craig Zadan, who received the award posthumously in 2018 along with his producing partner Neil Meron.
The host committee for the fourth annual Thespians Go Hollywood gala is headed by Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of Warner Media Entertainment and Direct to Consumer, and film and television producer Neil Meron.
Greenblatt said, “I’m so happy to be co-chairing this year’s L. A. benefit for the Educational Theatre Foundation where we’re giving the first Craig Zadan Theatre for Life Award to Bernadette Peters. Come and help support the arts and theatre in high school—it changed my life!”
Distinguished members of the host committee include: Sara Bareilles, Kristin Chenoweth, Harry Connick, Jr., Harvey Fierstein, Victor Garber, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lauren Graham, Sean Hayes, Kenny Leon, Seth MacFarlane, Audra McDonald, Debra Messing, Dolly Parton, John Stamos, Marlo Thomas, Nia Vardalos, and Renee Zellweger
Emmy Award-winner Rachel Bloom is an actress, singer, songwriter, writer, and comedian best known for bringing musical theatre to television as the lead in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which she co-created and executive produced alongside Aline Brosh McKenna. Bloom’s musical theatre roots can be traced back to Mira Costa High School where she earned induction into Troupe 2091 of the International Thespian Society in California.
Brandy, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress whose television career started with Moesha when she was a teen. She has played Roxy in Chicago on Broadway and released six studio albums of her own, collaborated with many other artists, and recently completed a world concert tour. Brandy also played the title character in the television movie of Cinderella, produced by Neil Meron, that featured Bernadette Peters as her Wicked Stepmother.
BAFTA Award winner Merle Dandridge spans multiple genres. Currently appearing in both television’s Greenleaf as Grace and Broadway’s Once on This Island as Papa Ge, she is also known for her award-winning turns in video games. Television credits include Sons of Anarchy, Starcrossed, and The Night Shift. Broadway credits include Spamalot, Rent, Aida, Tarzan, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Also a veteran of six concert tours, she is an alum of International Thespian Society Troupe 68 in Papillion-Lavista High School in Nebraska.
Tony Award nominee Megan Hilty is best known for her work as Ivy Lynn on NBC’s Smash. Her Broadway credits include Doralee in 9 to 5: The Musical and her Broadway debut as Glinda in Wicked. She earned nominations for Tony, Drama Desk, and Drama League Awards and won a Broadway.com Audience Award for her portrayal of Brook Ashton in Noises Off. She recently released a live album from her recent concert tour and also has a Christmas album.
Jennifer Kumiyama is a singer, actress, and advocate for people living with disabilities. In 2002, she starred in Disney’s Aladdin; A Musical Spectacular at Disney California Adventure Theme Park, making her the first performer in a wheelchair to be cast in a Disney stage production. Kumiyama now shares her inspiring story with schools and groups across the country as a speaker, empowering children with disabilities to achieve their own dreams.
Cast as Adelaide in her Maitland, Florida high school production of Guys and Dolls, the Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee Mandy Moore began her professional career as a singer at 15 and has six studio albums and more in her discography. She had appeared in several films before becoming a headliner, and youngest member of the cast, in the award-winning This Is Us, where she plays matriarch Rebecca Pearson at all stages of her adult life.
Tony, Drama Desk, Emmy, and Golden Globe nominee Matthew Morrison is known for his leading role in the television series Glee. Broadway credits include Finding Neverland, Footloose, Hairspray, Light in the Piazza, and South Pacific. His other television credits include Ghost Whisperer, The Good Wife, Grey’s Anatomy, Numbers, and CSI: Miami. Film credits include What to Expect When You’re Expecting. As a recording artist he has both solo albums and duets with Elton John and Gwyneth Paltrow. The year he appeared as the dance caption on BBC One’s competition series The Greatest Dancer.
The production team for 2019 Thespians Go Hollywood is led by Director/Choreographer Lee Martino; Creative Consultant Todd Schroeder; Musical Director Michael Orland; Technical Consultant Matt Conover, Vice President, Entertainment, Disneyland Resort and chair of the ETF National Board of Trustees; Technical Direction Michael Duncan; Sound Designer Kyle Cole; Lighting Designer Nick Van Houten; and Producer Hans Weichhart.