The Strathmore Annual Spring Gala was held on May 4, with a goal of raising $80,000 to support arts education in the Maryland area.
Annually, Strathmore offers nearly 350 programs for children, adults and the community at large. It also nurtures talent to develop the next generation of artists.
The evening kicked off with a plush black-tie dinner that was followed by a spirited concert headlined by popular Broadway stars, Matthew Morrison and Shoshana Bean. The two performed an impressive program of Broadway’s most beloved songs and American songbook standards, backed by a live jazz ensemble and local student performers.
Bean and Morrison were members of the original cast of Broadway’s Hairspray, where Morrison played the role of teen heartthrob Link Larkin.
Since that time, each has gone on to enjoy successful careers with Morrison nominated for Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. He appeared on Fox television’s Glee and most recently appeared on Broadway as J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. This year, Morrison was a dance captain on the Simon Cowell-produced The Greatest Dancer and has released two albums.
Bean’s four independent solo releases have topped the iTunes charts in the U.S. and U.K. and her latest release, Spectrum, landed her at number one on the Billboard Jazz Charts. Bean came to prominence when she took over the iconic role of Elphaba in the original Broadway production of Wicked from Idina Menzel. She currently is on Broadway playing the role of Jenna in Waitress.
Bean opened up with the jazzy “Remember the Day” and “I Wanna Be Around” that set the mood for a stellar evening of songs, notable for her impeccable timing and stunning vocal range. Attired in a sultry black dress with a thigh high slit, Bean introduced her music director and pianist David Cook who collaborated with her to co-write the song “Strange Thunder.” The funky, bluesy tune added to the jazz club feel.
Bean paid tribute to some of the singers who influenced her, including Frank Sinatra (“Can’t Take That Away From Me”) and Aretha Franklin, (“Never Loved a Man”). At one point, Bean stopped to advocate for arts education, noting that she is the daughter of an arts educator and that “the arts gives children a form of expression; a way to express what is inside.”
Bean later introduced Morrison who proved to be an incredible showman, not only singing and dancing up a storm, but who at one point also played an instrument. Like Bean, Morrison payed tribute to Sinatra with an upbeat version of “The Lady is a Tramp.” Morrison shifted gears to dedicate a sweet and touching rendering of “As Long As He Needs to Me,” from Oliver, to his 18-month-old son, Revel, as the singer, too, advocated for funding for arts education.
The singer performed a series of musical theater hits, nailing, “On the Street Where You Live,” from My Fair Lady, with verve and class. He then introduced Brad Ellis on piano, who played the pianist in Glee. A medley of songs from West Side Story followed, that included “America” and “Maria.”
A highlight of Morrison’s set was a medley of songs from Finding Neverland that culminated in the song “Stronger,” that allowed students from Young Artists of America and The Strathmore Children’s Choir to join him on stage.
Morrison brought Bean back onstage to perform a duet, singing “A Whole New World” that was particularly moving with its sweeping and lush chords. Showing off his dance skills, Morrison picked up an umbrella to thrill the audience with a dance routine as he sang “Singing in the Rain.”
The concert ended with students running down the aisles to perform a toe-tapping version of “This is Me” before filing onstage to join Morrison and Bean. It was a delightful ending to an event dedicated to arts education and concertgoers continued the festive mood by dancing away at an afterparty in the Music Center’s lobby.