Local and national performers combine talents to battle HIV/AIDS

By |2018-01-16T10:06:11-05:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

The “Detroit Concert for a Cure” might be a fun night out, as producer Brad Harder promises, but it’s much more than that: It’s also a reminder that the specter of HIV and AIDS is still with us.
“It’s all about awareness,” Harder said of the fundraiser scheduled for March 14 at Detroit’s Gem Theatre. “I think a lot of people are forgetting about HIV and AIDS, so this is a good chance to get out and support the cause.”
The gala is a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a New York-based not-for-profit fundraising and grant making organization. The group provides financial support to entertainment industry professionals and performing artists who suffer from problems related to HIV, AIDS and women’s health issues, as well as hundreds of community-based AIDS service organizations throughout the country.
More than $51 million has been awarded to individuals and groups throughout the country since 1987. Of that, Michigan organizations have received several hundred thousand dollars. Local recipients have included AIDS Partnership Michigan, Community Health Awareness Group, FRIENDS Alliance, Michigan Jewish AIDS Coalition, and the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project.
Much of the money raised locally comes from BC/EFA’s annual Thanksgiving appeal collected at theaters that host national touring productions. Additional income is generated by periodic events held at local bars. All monies raised are forwarded to New York for distribution. (Funds raised by Equity & Friends Fight AIDS, a local offshoot that’s not officially participating in Harder’s event, remain in the community, with funding decisions made by local Equity members.)
It was while working in New York that Harder decided to produce the “Detroit Concert for a Cure.” “I met the founder and CEO of Broadway Cares, Tom Viola, and we talked about what I can do in Detroit for [the organization],” Harder said.
The result is a lavish and entertaining evening that won’t soon be forgotten – and all for only $25 a ticket!
“We have a star cast,” Harder said. “I thought it would be neat to pull together everyone, all of the unique abilities of people in the entertainment industry.”
Staging the evening’s first act is Artistic Director Michael Lemanski, known locally for his choreography with Juliana’s Academy of Dance in Clawson. Now working in New York, Lemanski will bring with him former Detroiters Ricky Nahas and Nancy Emerson. Dancers from Juliana’s will also provide entertainment.
The second act will feature cast members from the touring production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” “They’re taking their day off to come out and work for free, just like everybody else,” the producer said.
But don’t expect numbers from the production, he cautioned. “They’ll be doing their favorite songs. They want to have fun with it and make it a beautiful concert.”
Also appearing will be local performers such as Judy Dery, a longtime favorite of Detroit’s LGBT community. The actress, who’s currently appearing in “Menopause the Musical” at the Gem Theatre, “jumped at the chance” to participate, according to Harder.
Performers from Oakland University and local high schools will also be featured, as well as The Macombers Show Choir.
The evening will be hosted by radio personality Cindy Canti of WMGC – Magic 105.1FM.
An afterglow follows, during which guests will be served complimentary appetizers while mingling with the event’s performers. Music will be provided by the jazz group Dry Bones.
Additional monies will be raised by a silent auction that will begin at 6 p.m. and run through intermission. “Twenty Broadway theaters have donated signed posters,” Harder said, “and every tour that’s come through Detroit this season has also donated signed posters.”
Models from Abercrombie & Fitch will also be present, selling raffle tickets that will benefit MAPP. Items to be raffled include ticket packages, dining certificates, merchandise from Broadway shows and CDs.
Tickets to the “Detroit Concert for a Cure” have been selling briskly, and the producer is pleased with the support the project has received, especially from one of its main sponsors, the Gem Theatre. However he’s still looking for additional sponsors and donations. “We’re confident people will step up and help us out. People are really jumping on the opportunity to be a part of this.”
Why that is, Harder explained, is quite simple: “It’s a great cause to support. You’ll have a fun evening, but the biggest part is that all proceeds do to charity.”

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