Tragedy can lead to inspiration, as is the case with Patricia Henley, who won a precedent-setting legal battle with Philip Morris by suing them when she contracted cancer after 35 years of smoking. Now living cancer-free, Henley has created the Patricia Henley Foundation, which sponsors the Theatre of Life for Children, the organization behind A Tribute to the Musical.
The show was directed by Peter McCorkle, and the ensemble of 47 young thespians ranged in age from 8 to 16. The whole thing came together under the artistic direction of Linda Laurie and program direction of Rod Lathim. Veteran performers Stephanie Sivers, BarBara Luna, Leata Galloway, Jane Maurer, and Linda Laurie joined the young people on stage and gave them the benefit of performing with Broadway stars, often singing along with them on the numbers that made them famous.
The creativity and talent of the performers on stage was energized by the presence of live musicians in the pit. The show started with “Tonight” from West Side Story. Later, when Giselle Tremblay joined Hair singers Leata Galloway and Jane Maurer (who performed in the musical on Broadway), her voice and presence were both impressive. Melanie Thomas, Daniel Garner, and Miranda Poett were also outstanding soloists in the three songs from Hair that concluded the first act. The company’s rousing rendition of “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In” (from Hair) concluded with a poignant political statement that still means something now, 40 years after the show opened. At the time, the image of the fallen soldier was a commentary on Vietnam; now, unfortunately, we are still waiting for the sun of peace to shine in.
Allison Lewis shone on “I’m the Greatest Star,” and Haley Yuhasz and Daniel Garner partnered well for “Lullaby of Broadway.” Artistic Director Linda Laurie took to the stage in the evening’s final number, a festive “California,” from an original musical she wrote. In more poignant moments in the second act, the performers shared concerns about their place in the world, interspersing comments amidst the lyrics of “Our Time.” Alternately bleak and hopeful, they reminded the audience that they do more than text message; they’re the names in tomorrow’s newspapers. Let’s hope the stories are good ones.