Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins

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Theater Resources Unlimited marked a quarter-century of "creating community through the arts" at its annual gala Sunday at Caroline's on Broadway. The luncheon event, titled 25 Years of TRU Love, featured performances by Robert Cuccioli, Jim Brochu, Klea Blackhurst, Steve Ross, Jana Robbins and Julie Reyburn. Robbins, who received the TRU Spirit of Theater Award at the gala, performed with her castmates from the current off-Broadway show This One's for the Girls.

Since its founding in 1992, TRU has provided support to theater artists and producers through such programs as play and musical writing workshops, the TRU Voices new-works reading series, producer mentorships, industry panels and audition events attended by casting directors, agents, theater companies and producers. Its signature programs also include writer/producer and actor/director "Speed Dates" and Producer Boot Camps on topics like raising money, mediation techniques and self-producing for artists.

TRU honored Robbins for her multifaceted contributions to theater, which encompass producing, directing and teaching as well as performing. Robbins was paid tribute via video by Michele Lee, whom she understudied in Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. Her award was presented by D. Tucker Smith, playwright of Roof of the World, whose world premiere Robbins produced at Kansas City Rep last year. Robbins' Broadway credits as an actor include I Love My Wife, Crimes of the Heart and Romance/Romance.

In celebrating its 25th anniversary at the gala, TRU also recognized past recipients of its Spirit of Theater, Humanitarian and Entrepreneur awards, including choreographer-director Jerry Mitchell; Elysabeth Kleinhans, artistic director of the 59E59 Theaters; Village Voice critic Michael Feingold; Arlene Romoff, a leading advocate for captioning of stage productions for the hearing-impaired; TRU board member Courtney Sweeting; Woodie King Jr., founding director of the New Federal Theatre; producers Van Dean, Patricia Klausner and Ken Davenport; Edith O'Hara, founder of the 13th Street Repertory; and Michael Presser, executive director of Inside Broadway. Past winners Philip Rose, Fred Vogel, Neil Danoff, Barry Moss and Randall Wreghitt were honored in memoriam.

A live auction was conducted from the stage for house seats to Hamilton, a Uniworld European river cruise and Legends Suite tickets to Yankee Stadium. Many other prizes--for dining, travel, nightlife, theater-professional services and more--are available in TRU's online auction, open through Sunday, Nov. 12. For further information about Theater Resources Unlimited, visit truonline.org.

Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Cabaret star Klea Blackhurst hosted the 2017 TRU Love Benefit, held at Caroline's comedy club near Times Square. Tracy Stark (left), the gala's music director, accompanied most of the performances and also performed one of her own songs.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Blackhurst and Jim Brochu (Zero Hour), the benefit's director, opened the show with "Do You Love TRU?," an occasion-specific revamp of Fiddler on the Roof's "Do You Love Me?"
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Steve Ross, the "crown prince of New York cabaret," brought some Cole Porter to the party with "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Anything Goes."
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
TRU president Bob Ost shared highlights of the organization's 25 years. He noted that last year's benefit, held two days before the presidential election, was themed "A Celebration of Inclusion in the Arts" and honored, among others, African-American producer Ron Simons and transgender artist Shakina Nayfack. "I had no idea," Ost said," that the idea of diversity in this country would be so challenged" in the wake of the election. TRU has sought to increase opportunities for women, people of color and others whose "stories aren't getting told enough" in commercial theater, according to Ost. "No matter what else is going on around us," he said, theater and the arts "will be the light that shines."
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Robert Cuccioli sang "My World" from The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit, a Christmas Carol sequel by Allan Knee that Jana Robbins produced off-Broadway the past two holiday seasons. To represent another Robbins project, MAC and Bistro award winner Julie Reyburn sang "Back to Before" from Ragtime (Robbins was a producer of the 2009 Broadway revival).
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Cuccioli was accompanied by Andre Catrini, who wrote the music and lyrics for The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Tom Polum served as auctioneer during the gala and also solicited about $5,000 in pledges earmarked for the TRU Voices reading series.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Honoree Jana Robbins told the audience she'd wanted to be a performer ever since her first class at the Gene Kelly dance studio in Johnstown, Pa., at age 4. After playing Mazeppa in the Tyne Daly Gypsy revival (and understudying Daly), Robbins was inspired to move to L.A. in the hopes of getting a TV series as Daly had, she recalled, but the experience made her realize "it didn't matter whether I was the star of the show, whether I was on stage or off stage, what mattered was creating theater." Robbins sang "Astonishing" from the Little Women musical that she coproduced on Broadway in 2005, and she especially thanked her 95-year-old mother, a former dancer, who was in attendance at the TRU gala.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Aneesa Folds, Traci Bair and Haley Swindal (from left) joined Robbins on stage to sing "I Am Woman," one of the 40 pop hits featured in This One's for the Girls.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
Attendees enjoyed a three-course lunch and cocktail hour as part of the TRU benefit.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
The cast of This One's for the Girls, now playing at St. Luke's on West 46th St.
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
In addition to "I Am Woman," Robbins and her costars sang Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire."
Photo Coverage: TRU Annual Benefit, Featuring Robert Cuccioli and Jana Robbins
The excerpt from This One's for the Girls capped the celebratory afternoon.

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From This Author Adrienne Onofri

Adrienne Onofri has been writing for BroadwayWorld since it was launched in 2003. She is a member of the Drama Desk and has moderated panels (read more...)

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