BWW Interview: Betsy Werbel Previews Upcoming IMAGINE Benefit Concert!
IMAGINE: A Concert of Hope, a benefit concert to raise funds to benefit Cancer Research through the Brian Werbel Memorial Fund at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center will take place on Monday, September 8th at 8:00 pm (le) poisson rouge (158 Bleecker St.). All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Brian Werbel Memorial Fund. Tickets can be purchased at UHGiving.org.
The concert will feature performances by members of the Broadway theatre community and Broadway Inspirational Voices. Scheduled to perform are: Adinah Alexander (Kinky Boots, Wicked), Jenni Barber (Wicked, The Nance), Kelli Barrett (Wicked, Baby It's You), Richard H. Blake(Jersey Boys, Matilda), Matt Bogart (Jersey Boys, Aida), Christine Dwyer (Wicked), Justin Guarini (Wicked, Romeo & Juliet, Season 1 Finalist American Idol), Lisa Howard (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, South Pacific), Marcus Paul James (Motown, In The Heights, Rent), Tamika Lawrence (If/Then, Matilda, Book Of Mormon), Jarrod Spector (Beautiful, Jersey Boys),Mary Testa(Wicked, Guys & Dolls, Xanadu) and Betsy Werbel (Wicked, Les Mis). The evening will be directed by Joe Ricci with musical direction by Jodie Moore.
Betsy Werbel, who co-founded the Brian Werbel Memorial Fund and organized the event, recently took the time to chat with BroadwayWorld about the upcoming concert. Read on to preview the upcoming benefit performance.
What went into making this event a reality?
Honestly, a lot of hard work, and a lot of really good people who want to help make a difference in this crazy world. I always have to be inspired to do an event like this, it's not something that I can be forced into doing. It just wouldn't be as meaningful, to me or anyone involved. My 40th birthday was this summer and I had been thinking a lot about what my family and I have been through since Brian died. It's indescribable, the kind of pain that we have endured as a family. But, somehow, seven years have gone by and we are still here trying to live the best possible life that we can live. I am proud of what I have accomplished since Brian died and this is my way of communicating that to everyone.
I did an event here in NYC in 2012, on the 5 year anniversary of Brian's death, called Imagine: A celebration of LIFE. It was an incredible, star studded, once in a lifetime event and I knew that someday I would do it again, and learn from my last experience.
A couple months before I turned 40, I made a phone call, we decided on a date and a venue and here we are!
What kind of music can fans expect?
I decided that I wanted all the music in "Imagine a Concert of Hope," to be inspirational and hopeful. That is what I told people to think of when picking a song for this event. So, everyone has picked songs that are important to them that they like to perform. The song range is very eclectic... we have some Aerosmith, Flarhety/Ahrens, William Finn, Hank Williams, Claude-Michel Schonberg, John Lennon, Drew Overcash, Steven Schwartz and more. It's ALL music that my brother and I love!
What does it mean to you that so many Broadway performers are taking part and supporting the cause?
It feels amazing to have such big names, but to be honest that is not my priority. I am lucky enough to be part of such an incredible Broadway community, so I am proud to say that most of the people involved are actual friends of mine who knew my brother or feel connected to me and my family in some way. My priority in casting is to get amazingly, talented people who really care about making a difference in the world of cancer research.
What do you think Brian would think of all of this?
Brian would have been completely overwhelmed and humbled by this event. He was always so proud of everything that I worked for and accomplished in my career. I know, that he will be smiling down on us on Monday night.
The Brian Werbel Memorial Fund was established to honor the memory of Brian, who passed away on May 7, 2007 at the age of 29. The mission of the fund is to advance clinical research on cancer-related initiatives, an area in which Brian was deeply involved.
UH Seidman Cancer Center is part of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University, one of only 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). UH Seidman Cancer Center, which opened a 150-bed freestanding cancer hospital last year, is dedicated to innovative treatments and promising research through more than 300 ongoing studies aimed at cancer treatment and prevention.