Melissa Errico Steps in for Barbara Cook at Friends In Deed Benefit; Re-Teams with Esparza for Sondheim Performance?

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For two decades Friends In Deed has offered emotional and spiritual support for all those affected by life threatening illness, caregiving and grief. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Friends In Deed, Emmy Award winner Sarah Jessica Parker and Tony Award winner Matthew Broderick are hosting "A Little Jurassic Treasure Hunt," a once-in-a-lifetime event on Monday, October 3, 2011. At this special benefit event, guests will form teams to trace clues through the American Museum of Natural History in a specially devised hunt created by legendary composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Following a cocktail reception in The Museum's Hall of Mammals, the hunt will take place in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs and the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs before a dinner reception in the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

The dinner reception was to feature performances of Mr. Sondheim's songs by Tony Award winner Barbara Cook and Tony nominee Raul Esparza. BroadwayWorld has just learned that Ms. Cook had to pull out of the event for unspecified reasons. Melissa Errico, who co-starred with Esparza in the 2002 Tribute to Sondheim at Avery Fisher Hall, will step in.

"I'm thrilled that Stephen Sondheim has lent his name and brilliance to help Friends In Deed," says Broadway actor and Friends In Deed Board Member Anthony Rapp. "Mr. Sondheim's treasure hunts are quite legendary, and rare, and I feel privileged to get to partake in one. This event will go a long way in allowing Friends In Deed to continue its life saving work."

For decades, Stephen Sondheim has famously devised private treasure hunt parties. In the late 1960's Sondheim started hosting game nights with friends. They gradually grew in size and complexity. In one of his famEd Halloween Hunts, created with Anthony Perkins, the participants arrived at an old brownstone, rang the bell and were invited in by an unknown white-haired lady who is was sworn to answer no questions. Tensely, they waited for their next message as she served coffee and cake in silence. Film star Lee Remick was hungry and ate her portion. "Stop!" shouted the group-leader ...too late. Rearranged, the icing on the cake would have revealed the map reference of their next rendezvous.

This year, Mr. Sondheim has offered to create a speciAl Hunt to benefit Friends In Deed and celebrate their two decades of invaluable work. This event marks a rare occasion when members of the public will have the opportunity to participate.

Founded by Mike Nichols and Cynthia O'Neal in 1991, Friends In Deed-- The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness -- has helped transform many thousands of lives through a wide array of free programs and services. Friends In Deed provides emotional and spiritual support for anyone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening physical illnesses. Support is also available for family, friends, and caregivers of those who are ill, and anyone dealing with grief and bereavement. All services are free of charge. For more information, visit www.FriendsInDeed.org or call (212) 925-2009.

The Friends In Deed Board of Directors: Tom Cashin, Andy Cohen, Federico Garza-Bueron, Patrick Gordon, Michael P. Harrell, Robert Levithan, Jay Johnson, Cynthia O'Neal, Sandra W. Parker, Anthony Rapp and Julie Wong.

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