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InDepth InterView UpDate: The Actors Fund President Joe Benincasa Reveals Details On BOMBSHELL/SMASH Reunion Concert Event

One of the most popular stories of the year so far, the unexpected announcement of a special one night only charity concert performance of a fan favorite musical-within-the-series from NBC's musical series SMASH, BOMBSHELL, to benefit the Actors Fund, is already a huge hit here on BroadwayWorld, and, now we bring you an exclusive chat with The Actors Fund president himself, Joe Benincasa, all about the hotly anticipated evening on June 8. As part of our conversation, Benincasa offers up the 411 on what plans are currently in place for the unprecedented SMASH reunion as well as shares first reactions to the wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that has already racked up more than $230,000 in donations in only a few short days, having begun with a goal of $50,000 when the event was first announced last week. Additionally, Benincasa looks back at some previous Actors Fund special events such as FUNNY GIRL and DREAMGIRLS and how the exultant reaction to this recent announcement compares to the hubbub surrounding those starry affairs - and what the momentum engendered by BOMBSHELL could lead to in the future, near and far. All of that and much, much more!

More information on The Actors Fund is available at the official site here. More information on the BOMBSHELL Kickstarter campaign is available at the official site here.

Let Me Be Your Star

PC: Are your overwhelmed by the reaction so far? Also, what can you tell about the ticket situation and how many tickets will be available to the various Kickstarter participants?

JB: Well, I can tell you that we are getting ready to announce a few new levels on Wednesday, actually. As for the reaction, I've got the overall numbers now, and, of course, we assumed that this was going to be big, but we are very surprised by how big it is. [Laughs.]

PC: In only a few days, no less - $230,000 already.

JB: Yeah, it's really great.

PC: How did the idea for a BOMBSHELL concert come about in the first place?

JB: It's all Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. We've known Craig and Neil for a long time and they've been longtime supporters of the Fund. You know, every time I would see Craig and Neil I would say to them, "What are you going to do with us to support the Actors Fund?" They always wanted to do something, and, finally, they called us back a little while ago and said, "We have a good idea - at least we think it's a good idea." And, then they said, "How about we do a concert version of BOMBSHELL?" and I said, "That's a terrific idea!"

PC: And it all began with that!

JB: It all began there. So, then, we started having meetings about it a few months ago and we all got very excited about it, especially Craig and Neil. They reached out to the entire company - the whole cast - and then everybody else got excited about doing it, too. But, it all started with Craig and Neil wanting to do something to benefit The Actors Fund - that's as simple as it is.

PC: Do you have any idea if it will be done in one act or two?

JB: I don't know yet - I assume it will be, but we are leaving the production up to the producers. We've established a basic budget and timeline and stuff like that, but I don't think Craig and Neil have discussed that aspect with us yet.

PC: What a sensational evening it is shaping up to be.

JB: It is - the numbers are very good, the interest is very high and the star power is very high on BOMBSHELL, too.

PC: What a coup to get all the original cast back together.

JB: It really is.

PC: Should we anticipate more announcements on casting in the coming weeks? I assume it will be a rollout of information in general.

JB: I think you're right - it will be a rollout of information. We have a meeting today with Craig and Neil and we will have several more over the next few weeks and we will be sure to keep you guys up to date - you are always so good to the Actors Fund. We are really lining up behind Craig and Neil on the production itself - you know, we are trying as hard as we can to raise as much money as we can for The Actors Fund and we want to make sure that we aren't disappointing any fans; and, that's a serious concern.

PC: Especially with a Kickstarter-based project like this.

JB: Exactly. You know, we want everybody to be able to see this somehow if they can, but we are not sure how to do that yet. Back in September, Megan Hilty told Seth Rudetsky that we were planning on doing this and that was the first time that there was any sort of announcement about it, and, you know, they crashed our website! There were more than a thousand hits all at one time and the website went down. They were all saying, you know, "Oh, we have to buy tickets!" At that moment, I knew that we had something really special. But, it all started with Craig and Neil - we've been talking to them about doing something for many, many years and they have helped us out in various ways over the years, but this is something special.

PC: It is unprecedented.

JB: I remember how I first heard about it - Craig and Neil were coming out of the Shubert offices in Shubert Alley and I happened to be there, too, and I said to them, "Have any good ideas yet, guys?" and they said, "We think we do." And, then, they called me that afternoon - like I told you about earlier - and had the idea for the BOMBSHELL concert.

PC: Is NBC involved at all with the production beyond licensing?

JB: I think that's pretty much it. We know that Bob Greenblatt is coming - he loves BOMBSHELL, of course - but right now that's all that we know.

PC: Is The Actors Fund directly involved with running the Kickstarter campaign?

JB: Yes. This is the first time that we have had a Kickstarter campaign and we had a lot of help in putting it together - a lot of young digital natives who have been helping us figure everything out.

PC: Would you be open to doing HIT LIST or any other SMASH-related concert events like this in the future?

JB: Oh, yeah! In fact, we have a long list of titles for one night only concerts and those are definitely ideas we have. One night only concerts are really terrific - as you know, we did a one night only concert of FUNNY GIRL several years ago and then DREAMGIRLS after that. DREAMGIRLS was the first major event after 9/11 in New York City, as a matter of fact - just a few weeks after the attack - and that was a remarkable night.

PC: Unforgettable.

JB: And, in speaking of FUNNY GIRL, as well, I was just talking to Margaret Styne and she would love to do FUNNY GIRL again to benefit the Actors Fund.

PC: It will be difficult to top that slew of stars - Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Lillias White, Whoopi Goldberg, Bebe Neuwirth, et cetera.

JB: And Peter Gallagher got to kiss them all! [Laughs.]

For even more on BOMBSHELL, be sure to stay tuned to BroadwayWorld for an exclusive conversation with The Actors Fund producer Tim Pinckney later this week.

Photo Credits: Walter McBride & NBC



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