By Jacqueline Monahan
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Photos by Stephen Thorburn

The Best of Broadway Las Vegas at Texas Station

A dinner theatre benefit performance for Broadway In The Hood took place on Friday, April 22 in the Dallas Ballroom at Texas Station.  32 actors, singers and dancers, ranging in age from 6 – 30+ took the stage for a 20-song tribute to some of the most popular Broadway shows of all time.

Cast of Broadway in the Hood - The Best of Broadway Las vegas

Produced by A Source of Joy Theatricals (founded by Torrey Russell and Preston Coghill) and headquartered in Las Vegas, Broadway In The Hood is a full-service community empowerment arts organization dedicated to making a positive impact on communities across America. Its programs target communities plagued with gangs, drugs, and domestic violence, with a primary focus on teens and young adults.

Cast and crew members learn from professional directors, choreographers and technicians how to create and build a full-scale Broadway production utilizing members of the local community.  "We cast in homeless shelters — Shade Tree, Safe Nest — and Boys and Girls Clubs,” Russell says.

Founder/DirectorTorrey Russel (center) Ain't Misbehavin'


Gabrielle Boyadjian Sings Don't Rain on My Parade (Funny Girl)

The Best of Broadway Las Vegas featured music from Wicked, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, Chicago, The Wiz, Momma Mia, Ain't Misbehavin’, Les Miz, Miss Saigon, Rent, Funny Girl, Porgy & Bess, The Color Purple and many more.


Dreamgirls (and Guy)

Standout performances included Lauretta Williams’ plaintive Somewhere Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz and Vanessa Williams-Jackson’s powerful I am Here from The Color Purple.  Johana Magsanoc’s I’d Give My Life For You from Miss Saigon and Sarah Willick and Gabrielle Boyadjian’s Wicked medley would have had much more impact with a dependable sound system; Lynda McCleary’s haunting Summertime from Porgy and Bess was hampered by a  frequently malfunctioning microphone.


Lauretta Williams Sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Wizard of Oz)
Lynda McCleary sings Summertime (Porgy and Bess)

Youngest cast members M’Lisa Cullins, Teshi Thomas, and Lauren Dumas, all 6-8 years old, stole every scene they were in, from portraying mini-Dreamgirls, to high energy dance moves in Mamma Mia’s Dancing Queen.


Dancin' Queens (Mamma Mia)

Russell himself, along with Ian Gargantiel performed Do You Hear the People Sing from Le Miz, while Andrew Mays and Jericho Michela opened the show with Mr. BoJangles from Fosse.  Despite technical setbacks in sound and lighting, the cast honored the longtime Broadway “trooper “tradition which puts forth the ultimate actor’s mandate: the show must go on.

Powered by enthusiasm, willpower and pure joy, the large cast performed the fast moving 2-hour program (there’s one fifteen minute intermission) with a headlong, collective pounce that revealed passion and perseverance; their love for and relationship with music, the stage and the spotlight was evident, even if perfection was not. 

Other numbers featured All That Jazz from Chicago, Welcome to the 60’s from Hairspray, Seasons of Love from Rent, and a rousing, 42nd Street Finale that summoned up the power and excitement of a large cast, tap dancing in unison.


The Ensemble in Bubbling Brown Sugar

The show needs some polish, technical precision and fine tuning before it takes to the road, and the principals are on the right track; they just haven’t arrived yet.  Still, this reviewer gives well-earned props to any performer brave enough to take on the public scrutiny of a constantly changing audience while simultaneously honing their craft.  That takes courage, confidence and tremendous dedication that is admirable and rare; kudos to the entire cast for exhibiting grace under pressure while continuing to reach out to the audience.

A Source of Joy Theatricals allows young people to discover both theatre and themselves, creating a performance community full of multicultural monarchs, maidens and marauders (when they’re not busy portraying monsters, mothers and merchants).

Maya Angelou has called them “a beautiful rainbow,” and next month, the cast opens for Whoopi Goldberg in Arizona.  Maybe they haven’t arrived yet, but they are certainly on their way.

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