Jeffrey Willets and Jay Kaplan present cabaret fundraiser June 26 & 28
ROYAL OAK – What do you get when you mix a classically trained and “proudly out” Ann Arbor music educator with a crusading LGBT attorney who’s equally comfortable in a courtroom as he is on stage? How about “Two Tenors On The Edge,” a cabaret and fundraiser featuring Jeffrey Willets and Jay Kaplan.
The dynamic duo – along with University of Michigan School of Music accompanist Margaret Counihan – will stage the event twice – Monday, June 26 at Pronto! in Royal Oak and Wednesday, June 28 at the Blackbird Theatre in Ann Arbor – as a fundraiser for Willets’ sister, Sandra McMahon, who recently underwent two surgeries in Germany to correct life-threatening problems caused by scoliosis.
“She’s a brilliant woman who does a lot of great things for people,” Willets said of his sister, an advocate for children in Michigan who require special education services. So when McMahon discovered that the surgeries she needed were not yet authorized in the United States – and that insurance wouldn’t cover any of the costs – everyone in her family eagerly dipped into their savings to help her. But with a bill that ultimately approached $80,000, there was only so much that her mother and four siblings could do.
Until Willets came up with idea of staging a cabaret fundraiser, that is. “She loves music and show tunes, so I thought may be I could buddy-up with Mr. Kaplan and Margaret and put our stuff together,” he said.
It didn’t take much to get his collaborators on board. “Jeff and I have been friends for more than 20 years,” recalled Kaplan. “We’re very close friends. I’ve also known his family for 20 years. They’re very dear people; they’re a very close knit family.”
The two met while performing in “The Pirates of Penzance” with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society at U of M. “He was the lead; I was a pirate,” Kaplan noted. It was a successful blending of talents that has continued off and on throughout the years. “I’ve always had a great love for singing and performing, and he has a beautiful voice.”
What connects the two on stage, Willets believes, is their energy. “We’re both high energy people. And there’s a lot of interplay between us. And Margaret, too.”
The fundraiser will feature an eclectic collection of show tunes, comic opera pieces and traditional ballads by such stalwarts as Kander & Ebb, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Kern and Sheldon Harnick. While most of the numbers in the 75-minute program will be solos, Willets & Kaplan plan to sing at least two duets. “It’s going to be fun,” Kaplan predicted.
But more importantly, it will be a light-hearted evening of music and entertainment for a good cause.