The BRANDEN JAMES Duo is a cello and vocal due featuring Branden James and James Clark that brings the stirring timbre of James on his cello combined with Branden’s emotional and powerful vocals, creating a sound that leaves audiences feeling moved and inspired. “…the always supportive, sometimes haunting power of the cello accompanying Branden’s voice solidifies the classical sound, adds new depth to the popular, and allows the audience to just sit back and take it in…so movingly, that you may forget to breathe!” says Paul Lisnek - Host of Broadway in Chicago Backstage. The energy and fervor behind their music has a story to tell of their unique pairing. Branden had a successful career on stage and in recording prior to his meeting the Australian cellist, James. Some of Branden’s accolades include finishing as 2013 Finalist on America’s Got Talent, residencies at The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Los Angeles Opera, two world tours with the renowned Twelve Tenors and two solo releases worldwide. James brought to the mix his own share of musical accomplishments, studying as a pianist at a young age and a career in music education before discovering performance as his ultimate love. James initially came on board to music direct one of many charity concerts that Branden was performing in at the time and their connection was so immense they began to play together. Since then, they’ve been touring around the world playing their original songs and innovative, classically inspired covers. Reminiscent for some as The Piano Guys meets Josh Groban, they weave familiar melodies of pop tunes in classical style with their own unique sound. Branden says, “people tell us we’re so unique and different. I think that’s what excites us most. We’re actually doing something that hasn’t been done before.”
Australian cellist James Clark has performed with some of the biggest stars from around the world. With artists ranging from Idina Menzel and Olivia Newton John to Van Dyke Parks and Lea Salonga, he has showcased his talents to a wide variety of audiences. Born in Adelaide, Australia, James holds a Masters Degree in music performance from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, California State University, Long Beach. Prior to his music performance career, he was tenured as a full time music teacher at Immanuel College, a Lutheran coeducational high school, where he was Director of Strings from 2007 until the end of 2012. Utilizing his roles as cellist, pianist, arranger, and musical director, James has recently teamed up with vocal artist, and America’s Got Talent finalist, Branden James, to form the aptly named cello-vocal duo BRANDEN JAMES.
Vocalist Branden James' has inspired millions as a finalist on season 8 of America's Got Talent. And his story continues to do the same. “After my time on the show (AGT), thousands of people from around the world reached out to me and told me how much I inspired them to come out or seek a stronger support system. And many told me of struggles that were far more dangerous and heartbreaking than mine. It was then I realized is there is power in being open and transparent. There is good in living with authenticity. I want to be an inspiration for people and a leader in the world. I think its part of my calling. It was a complete epiphany which has quite frankly transformed me,” Branden says. His 2015 EP release, CROSSOVER, explores Branden’s heartfelt, sometimes folksy songwriting and his penchant for singing other styles of music that may not generally be associated with a classical crossover artist. Branden spent much of the last decade singing in Residence at The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Having appeared in concert at The Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center and Trafalgar Square in London, His travels have also honored him with a personal performance for Pope Benedict XVI and the Nelson Mandela family in South Africa. He has kicked off game for The Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Cubs, Whitesox and The Gay Games 2014 with his own passionate rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” James has also hit the Las Vegas strip, headlining a show entitled "Spirit of The Dance" He is a regular Solo Entertainer for Crystal, Princess and Holland America Cruise lines. In television, He serves as co-host for the wildly popular Afterbuzz TV network and has been a guest on TV shows in The US and around the globe in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Romania, and The United Kingdom. Branden recently made his solo Carnegie Hall debut in “An American Christmas Carol” alongside Sarah McLachlan, Kate Winslet and Neil Sedaka. “I’m thrilled to see what the future holds. And I hope my music and story continue to be an agent for change in this world.”
Tristan is 14 years old and an 8th grader at FAIS. He began studying the cello at hte age of 5 wiht the Suzuki method. Since his studies in Paris, Tristan has been a member of the Golden Gate Philharmonic's junior, senior and advanced Camerata orchestras as well as several string quartets. He currently studies cello with Randy Fromme at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is a member of the Andante String Quartet. Tristan was admitted to the Sequoia Chamber music festival this summer and will begin attending International High School in the Fall.
Jason Brock is a television, film and stage star. He was seen in homes all over the world as a finalist on X-Factor singing songs like Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind." Jason also starred in the film, "Love is not Enough," which played at global film festivals, including the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco. Jason is well-known as a cabaret star and performs original shows regularly. He was voted "Best Male Cabaret Singer" in 2015 & 2016 by the readers of the Bay Area Reporter. He has also done a fair amount of theatre. Some of his roles include: Hedwig in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Boxcar Theatre, a demented flower girl in Taylor Mac's "The Lily's Revenge" at Magic Theatre, and "Peachy Gale" in Peaches Christ's "The Wizard of Odd" at Castro Theatre. Jason is currently working on an album of original music. His original songs, "Cornbread," "You've got the Love" and Miguel Migs' "Sail On" can be purchased or streamed on most music services today.
Carole created the role of Maggie Jones in the New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo companies of the Tony Award winning musical, 42nd Street & originated the role of Blanche Daly in the Broadway hit play, Romantic Comedy. She was the second “Dolly” in the world, following Carol Channing for a two year run in Australia and New Zealand. She has starred in major of productions of both Mame and Auntie Mame. She co-starred in the Los Angeles and National companies of Father’s Day, for which she received a Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle nomination for Best Actress, and also starred in the Australian production of the play. Best Actress Awards include The Supporting Cast, Patio/Porch and The Lion in Winter, in which as Eleanor of Aquitaine, she co-starred with her husband, Tom Troupe. They also acted together in The Gin Game. In the National tour of Steel Magnolias, Carole played the irascible “Quiser”, for which she received a Helen Hayes Theatre Award. She has been the recipient of eight Best Actress Drama Logue & Robby Awards in Los Angeles. Her feature films include: The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Palm Springs Weekend, American Gigolo, Summer Lovers, The Gauntlet, Lost and Found, Grandview U.S.A., and Sixteen Candles. She has guest starred on most major television shows Including Grey’s Anatomy. She has toured extensively in her one woman show, Dress Up and starred in Follies Reprise in Los Angeles and in the New York City Center production of 70 Girls 70. In 1995, Carole received Baylor University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2002, she and Tom were presented the prestigious Theatre Ovation Award for Career Achievement. The first husband and wife team ever to be so honored. Carole recently did a guest starring role on Major Crimes on TNT Network. For the past 31 years, she has appeared in the S.T.A.G.E. AIDS benefit in Los Angeles, and this will be her 20th year with Help is on the Way.
Melinda Doolittle is a soul–stirring songstress. She is a flawless vocalist with irresistible artistry and effortless style compelling her audiences to keep listening. Tone deaf as a child, Melinda’s choir teacher would plead with her not to sing, but just silently move her mouth. Undaunted, her love of singing drove her to enter a talent show in the seventh grade where she stunned the audience with her miraculously spot on vocals and beautiful voice. She never looked back! Melinda graduated with a Bachelors in Music from Belmont University in Nashville, TN. She became a highly sought after background vocalist singing for musical icons including Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Aaron Neville and Jonny Lang. Doolittle became a household name during season six of American Idol in 2007. She came in third in the voting, first with Simon Cowell calling her his “personal favorite” and quickly became the sweetheart of American Idol winning over the hearts of all with her stunning powerhouse vocals and her personal charm. In 2009, Doolittle released her debut album Coming Back to You garnering rave reviews from critics, including The New York Times, which hailed her as one of the most “phenomenally gifted” singers in years. In 2013, she released her sophomore album You’re The Reason giving fans yet another opportunity to hear her impeccable vocals and revealing a bit more of her personality. People Magazine stating, “Her voice is a slinky purr then a mighty growl that will keep you coming back for more.” In the middle of her album releases, she penned her book Beyond Me: Finding Your Way to Life's Next Level. Melinda is currently the well-loved co-host of TV Line’s Reality Check. Doolittle continues to thrill audiences everywhere from the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame to The White House, from the Copa Room to Carnegie Hall. In addition, she has been a featured guest with the Boston Pops, Charlotte Symphony and United States Air Force Orchestra to name a few, including a featured performer at the 2015 Boston Pops Fourth of July Spectacular. She is currently headlining her own soulful show It Must Be Love. In thankfulness for all she has been given, Doolittle gives back to these amazing organizations: Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, The League, and Malaria No More (Presidential Delegate to Africa).
Sony Holland is one of the Bay Area’s most beloved performers of jazz standards. She got her start by busking at Fisherman’s Wharf. Sony’s CD of original material, ON A SAN FRANCISCO HIGH, led to sold out concerts at Yoshi’s and other area venues. For the past several years the glittering vocalist has held a musical residency at the posh Ritz-Carlton SF, while opening shows for the likes of George Benson and performing extensively throughout Asia and in top jazz venues across the United States. Sony has had the honor of singing the National Anthem for the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers and has appeared in benefit concerts for REAF, Music In Schools Today, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Meals On Wheels and other worthy causes.
Kimberley first gained fame with her participation in the 2003 American Idol Television series where she was second runner up. Recent years saw the release of her EP, “Four For The Floor” which features the top 40 Dance hit single “Finally Free.” Her latest single “Feel The Love” a collaboration with Cahill, hit #1 on the UK Pop & Dance charts. Immediately following American Idol, Locke was signed to Curb Records where she enjoyed a very successful career as a recording artist, having released 3 full length albums with the label. Among her many achievements, she has had eight Top 20 Adult Contemporary hits and four #1 Dance hits across various Billboard charts. Her #1 club hit, a remake of the Freda Payne classic “Band of Gold,” was included on Billboard’s “Top 50 Dance Songs of the Decade” list. She has also made history as being the only recording artist to score a #1 Christmas song on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart three years in a row. For the past seven years, Locke has been actively involved with One Heartland, a national non-profit organization committed to improving the lives of children and their families impacted by HIV/AIDS, where she serves as one of the organization’s board of directors. She has also worked with several other HIV/AIDS related charities, including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, YouthAIDS, Nashville CARES,The Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation and the Davy Foundation. In 2007, Locke was presented with the Red Ribbon Award in recognition for her extensive charitable efforts as an HIV/AIDS activist. Locke didn’t stop with just her music career from the years since Idol. She has been a staple in the entertainment industry, having signed a modeling contract with Ford Models, where she landed a two-year deal with clothing retailer Lane Bryant and became the face of their national Seven7 Jeans Designer Collection campaign. She went on to appear in VH1’S Celebrity Fit Club where she lost 40 lbs. and became a national spokesperson for Jenny Craig. She maintains a healthy and fit lifestyle and, through her motivational speaking engagements, inspires women across the country with their weight loss and sense of empowerment. Locke was the key speaker at the Dutchess-Ulster Go Red for Women for the American Heart Association. Nashville native Locke received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Management from Belmont University. Kicking her business aspirations into high gear, she founded her own entertainment company in early 2011 called I AM Entertainment. This new endeavour allows her to not only take full control over her own career but to aid other artists in the development of their brands and products. In addition to various tour dates and performances, Locke has branched out as a television personality oftentimes hosting Red Carpet events for E!, American Idol, Extra, and The Insider. Kimberley was seen as an expert judge on NBC Universal’s Next Great Family Band. She has also hosted ABC’s Windy City Live, Hallmark’s The Better Show, GSN’s Word Slam, MTV’s Little Talent Show, GMC’s Gospel Dream, and co-hosted several episodes of ABC’s The View. Locke has also begun building a reputation as an actress in recent years, as the starring role in the short film The Therapy Sessions and can be seen in the role of Crystal Blue in the Sci-Fi Thriller The App.
LA TOYA LONDON
An undeniable presence whose talent even managed to silence the razor sharp tongue of none-other than American Idol!s most infamous judge, Simon Cowell. Cowell!s silence was only matched by his candor as he coined the term "The Three Divas" when discussing Fantasia Barrio, Jennifer Hudson and La Toya London, and hailed La Toya as the odds-on favorite to win that year's competition. aNever one to rest on her laurels, La Toya expanded her artistry and sought to capture the attention of audiences everywhere. Her delivery of Nettie, the spirited and infectious sister of Celie in Broadwy!s first national tour of Oprah Winfrey presents The Color Purple musical, was met with rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, prompting the NAACP to recognize La Toya as a leading figure in the theater industry. The immediate fame that reality TV can provide can be overwhelming for some, but La Toya!s star power proved steadfast as a number of record labels, who had fallen under the hypnotic spell of this young Chanteuse', endeavored to have La Toya record for them. Ultimately, Peak Records won the "prize" and signed La Toya to a recording deal. Their collaboration lead to 2005!s debut album, Love & Life, which debuted in the Billboard Top 100. The album spawned 3 successful singles, Appreciate featuring Black Thought from The Roots, Every Part of Me, and the Adult Contemporary Top 40 hit, State of My Heart. It wasn!t long before the talk show circuit too was smitten by the allure of La Toya London as her rounds about town included engaging appearances on Larry King Live, David Letterman, Regis & Kelly, and The Ellen Degeneres Show. London's magnetism is obvious and though being honored for her work is rewarding, it is not where she finds her deepest appreciation; her social activism with respect to underprivileged children in the urban community provides not only her greatest challenge, but grandest reward. Armed with philanthropic ideals long before celebrity found her, it wasn!t a surprise when London accepted an invitation to sit on the Board of Directors for The Richmond/Earmet AIDS Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization established to raise funds for AIDS service provider agencies through the production of quality entertainment events. La Toya London is a star, which is obvious to anyone who takes the time to meet her, but it is her humility, her ability to not allow stardom to affect her person that truly allows her star to resonate and shine brightest.
Jon can be seen as a series regular on the webisode series Last Rights, which is beginning to film it’s second season. He also just co-starred on the ABC television show, Switched At Birth. Recent theater work includes originating the role of Adam Tyler in Cute…but Slow, and the west coast premiere of The Language of Flowers. Additional theatre includes Brush Up Your Shakespeare performed before the opening of Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival, Hoboland, She Had it Coming, The Gay 90’s… and the West Coast premier of F.L.O.W. Jon is frequently referred to as The Sign Language Guy for his interpreted performances in productions such as Shrek, Rain, Come Fly Away, A Chorus Line, KLuB, Self Defense, The Mysteries, The Exonerated, The Guys, Spoon River Anthology, Master Class, Angels in America, Death and the Maiden, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and events for many Presidents of the United States. He has appeared for over 16 years in the annual Fund Raiser’s for S.T.A.G.E., The Actors Fund of America, and Richmond Ermet Aid Foundation. Film credits include The Mavericks, Navy Heroes, Baby Sitters Club, Carlton’s Death, Farce, Kiss Me Later, and June. Television credits include, General Hospital, S!*t My Dad Says, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Pretender, The Red Cross Christmas Special, Twice Tried, The Marilu Show, The Mo Show, Comedy Tonight, and enough television commercials to choke a horse. Jon is also the only recipient of a special Los Angeles Theatre Critics Drama Desk Award for his outstanding achievement and contribution in theater. He’s also a two-time recipient of the Carrie Hamilton Humanitarian Award, winner of the Great Western Comedy Competition, and the proud recipient of the City of West Hollywood’s Humanitarian Rainbow Award and Help Is On The Way’s HERO award by the Richmond Ermet Aids Foundation.
Constantine Maroulis was born a scrappy kid in Brooklyn with big pipes, deep pride for his Greek heritage, and a love for the theater and rock n’ roll. It was an upbringing a world away from the showbiz glitz of New York and Los Angeles, yet he would come to penetrate the firmament of stars in those galaxies many times. Constantine first came to prominence as the beloved rock n’ roll underdog on American Idol. He then secured his place in pop culture as a Broadway superstar, best known for his TONY-nominated role in Rock Of Ages. Now, for his third act, he begins an invigorating and promising new era with a bevvy of intriguing projects, including putting the finishing touches on his most assured and swaggering solo music to date.
“I always knew I was going to do something within the entertainment business. From a young age I told everyone that,” the New Jersey-based performer says. “I always had a plan. The streets of New York were my college. I hustled a ton, pounding the pavement selling clothes, doing real estate, just anything to support my dreams. I was the kid with a mic in one hand and a briefcase in the other.”
Constantine’s story took an important turn at a very young age when his family moved from Brooklyn to Wyckoff, New Jersey. The city’s manicured lifestyle was culture shock to Constantine who preferred the more diverse and earthy environs of Brooklyn. He took solace in close family ties, and his family’s eclectic music soundtrack which included goth, classic rock, jazz, Spanish hymns, Greek music, pop, and show tunes. His life would get another jolt when he witnessed his brother’s performance in a high school production of West Side Story. “I remember seeing the scene where he got stabbed in a rumble and came back to life in a dream sequence. That changed me forever,” Constantine recalls. Despite his vocal prowess and his magnetic presence onstage, Constantine bounced around the New York music scene through most of his 20s having put in a lot of hard work with little to show. In 2004, an old friend convinced him to try out for American Idol. Previous to his fateful appearance on the show, Constantine had studied musical theater at Boston Conservatory, spent years in the theater scene, and slogged it out on the thankless NYC rock n’ roll club circuit. At the time of his Idol audition, he was fresh from touring with the musical Rent and out of touch with the popular show, as this was before social media. The rest is history, one Constantine is grateful for. “Basically, my life changed the moment I stepped on the property. I had cameras in my face all time. It was the right time and I was ready to play,” he recalls.
Constantine Maroulis became a household name through his memorable run as a finalist on the fourth season of American Idol. His charisma, rock n’ roll edge, and astounding vocals entranced the judges, along with the 30 million viewers watching the show at home. His triumphant performances on Idol included some of the show’s most electrifying moments on TV, including his rendition of Queen’s epic “Bohemian Rhapsody". Constantine knew after American Idol he had a relatively limited window of opportunity to fortify his career. “I went into survival mode—I knew nothing would be handed to me,” he confides. It was by hustling, flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, working 12-hour days, that he began to make headway. A show called Rock Of Ages with an unknown cast and unknown creatives came knocking. It had a great program of classic songs and a Constantine was instantly drawn in by the concept, and signed on. The show enjoyed a very successful run as one of the highest-grossing Broadway shows of all time, culminating in a myriad of awards and critical acclaim for Constantine including a TONY-Award nomination, and firmly establishing him as a world-class performer. Constantine then went on to receive a Drama League Award Nomination for a Distinguished Performance Award for Rock Of Ages, as well as his work on the show Jekyll and Hyde.
Constantine channels appreciation for his visibility and success through working even harder. “I live for the work,” he admits. He is currently maintaining his acting schedule while writing and recording the strongest music of his career, as well as branching out into theatrical production and enjoying a TONY-nomination for the critically acclaimed show Spring Awakening. “In a way, there are two me’s—the guy driving the van-and-trailer, and the guy onstage in front of millions. I want to be like a really great utility player on a baseball team and play every position on the field. That feels honorable,” he says. Constantine’s clout is growing on Broadway, as his name is attached to many upcoming projects both as producer and actor. The NY Times applauds his recent acting work in Second Stage Uptown’s production of Friend Art as follows: "Mr. Maroulis, the onetime “American Idol” finalist and a Tony nominee for “Rock of Ages,” has bloomed into a fine actor. As Nate, the most easygoing of the characters, content to coast along and take things as they come, he gives a wonderfully sensitive performance."
One on-going area of focus for Constantine is recording a new album. It’s the album he has always wanted to make —a brash, fun, big rock record, oozing attitude and big hooks. Constantine has been writing and collaborating with Killer Deluxe, the acclaimed production and writing duo Andy Waldeck and Chris Reardon (Daughtry, David Cook, Scott Stapp). Anticipation is high for the new album, and two new songs are slated for release in early 2016 through Noble Steed Music, an independent imprint run by former Warner Music impresario Jason Spiewak. The songs “Here I Come” and “She’s Just Rock N’ Roll” showcase infectious tuneage, dripping innuendo, arena ready choruses, and irresistible classic rock grooves. The content is playful, raunchy, and uplifting. “The track ‘Here I Come’ is my love letter to a rock n’ roll New York night,” Constantine reveals.
All of this ambition is held in balance by Constantine’s inspiration – his 5-year old daughter Malena. Life as a single Dad is not without its challenges, however, Constantine is firm in his commitment to being present in his daughter’s daily life. Constantine says: “I’m really a regular guy, and my family reminds me of that. There is nothing more important to me than spending time with Malena. Everything is for her and her future."
Donna McKechnie, received a Tony Award for her performance in the original production of A CHORUS LINE, and is regarded internationally as one of Broadway’s foremost dancing and singing leading ladies. Donna's most recent appearance was at Feinstein's/54 Below in A VISIT WITH KANDER & EBB, which featured McKechnie and her special Broadway guests offering a kaleidoscope of classic Broadway songs from the illustrious career of John Kander and Fred Ebb. This past summer she was featured in Christopher Gattelli’s new musical, IN YOUR ARMS, at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Last year she created the musical staging for a production of SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS starring Leslie Caron at the Laguna Playhouse. Donna is now co-starring in a new production called 4 GIRLS 4 with Maureen McGovern, Andrea McArdle and Faith Prince produced by Wayne Gmitter. She appeared at 54 Below, New York’s celebrated Supper Club, presenting SAME PLACE: ANOTHER TIME, her new musical show and then performed it in London at the Crazy Coqs Supper Club as well as recorded the show live which was produced by Jay Records. In April of 2016 she will perform in a new Musical Review called, A VISIT WITH KANDER AND EBB.
Her Broadway shows include HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM,(NAT’L TOUR), THE EDUCATION OF H*Y*M*A*N-K*A*P*L*A*N, SONDHEIM- A MUSICAL TRIBUTE (which she also choreographed),ON THE TOWN, PROMISES-PROMISES, COMPANY and STATE FAIR, for which she received the Fred Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer for the 1996 Season, and THE VISIT. She was also featured in ANNIE WARBUCKS and LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE in New York productions. She has starred in numerous productions in London’s West End, including PROMISES-PROMISES, COMPANY, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (which she also choreographed), Cole Porter’s CAN-CAN and Stephen Sondheim’s FOLLIES.
Bob Fosse invited Ms. McKechnie to play the lead in his last production, a National tour of SWEET CHARITY, for which she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. Donna’s regional credits include THE GLASS MENAGERIE, THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES (with River City Rep), IRMA LA DOUCE, CABARET, THE IMAGINARY INVALID, THE THREE PENNY OPERA, THE GOOD-BYE GIRL, FOLLIES, MACK AND MABEL, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, GYPSY, I DO-I DO!, MISALLIANCE, STEPPING OUT, GIRL’S ROOM, and INSIDE THE MUSIC, (her one woman musical with text by Christopher Durang). More recently, she was in John Doyle’s production of TEN CENTS A DANCE at Williamstown Theatre Festival and the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N. J. The New York Times review of her cabaret show, GYPSY IN MY SOUL, compared her to “legends Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon as a brass- knuckled trouper with a heart of gold in a breezy, happy to be here celebration.” Donna’s one woman musical, MY MUSICAL COMEDY LIFE received unanimous raves from New York theatre critics, won a Mac Award Nomination for Best Female Singer and the Bistro Award for Outstanding Major Engagement. She also received a nomination for an Ovation Award for Best Featured Actress (MACK AND MABEL) by the Los Angeles Theatre Alliance League. She made her Opera debut in 1996, guest starring in the San Francisco Opera’s production of DIE FLEDERMAUS. Donna has also performed extensively on the concert stage and with symphony orchestras all over the country. She has appeared as guest star in numerous television specials and dramatic series including HBO SHOWSTOPPERS, FAME, CHEERS, FAMILY TIES, HULLABALOO,TWIRL, and DARK SHADOWS. One of the highlights of her recent professional life was to choreograph the highly acclaimed GUYS AND DOLLS at the Hollywood Bowl directed by Richard Jay-Alexander. A few seasons ago she opened the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and completed her first tour of Australia performing My MUSICAL COMEDY LIFE. Ms. McKechnie’s memoir, TIME STEPS- My Musical Comedy Life, was published by Simon and Schuster. Donna was featured in the documentary film, EVERY LITTLE STEP and played the Rose in the film of THE LITTLE PRINCE. This is Donna's third appearance in a "Help is on the Way" production.
Jai Rodriguez is a talented actor, singer and dancer who starred as Zanna in the off-Broadway musical hit Zanna , Don’t! Jai joined Zanna, Don’t! after a long-running turn on Broadway starring as Angel in Jonathan Larson’ Tony Award-winning musical Rent. Jai’s other theater credits include Spinning Into Butter at Lincoln Center Theatre, Sad Hotel at the White Barn Theatre, and Rent in Canada. On Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Jai used all aspects of his professional training and skills as a performer plus his social charisma to coach straight subjects on everything from how to mix ‘n mingle in a social setting, to conversation skills and even being at ease on the dance floor. Jai also appeared in the movie The Producers as Sabu the Houseboy and The New Guy as Jose, the drag queen prisoner. While on hiatus from Queer Eye Jai appeared on Broadway as Carmen Ghia in The Producers. Jai started his singing career performing with his local church choir at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. In 2006, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career and was among the top finalists in the TV hit series Celebrity Duets. Most recently Jai costarred with Reba McIntyre and Lily Tomlin on television in Malibu Country.
MICHAEL WALTERS (AS DAME EDNA)
World-renowned actor and celebrity impersonator Michael Walters presents a hysterical and "dead-on" tribute to Australia's most fabulous export, Dame Edna Everage. Sequins blaze and punchlines fly as Walters pays loving homage to a global comedy icon. Walters' career as a performer has taken him to Broadway and all over the world, and he's extremely excited to bring Dame Edna's unique brand of caring and sharing to this year's star-studded benefit!
With a voice acclaimed for its many shades of soulfulness, Paula West has captured the hearts of critics and audiences alike from coast to coast. Known for her distinctive repertoire—she believes the American Songbook includes such writers as Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Jimmy Webb, and Leonard Cohen—Ms. West adds her own depth and drama to American favorites. Born into a Marine Corps family, Ms. West grew up in San Diego. Moving to San Francisco, she attended singing classes and jan sessions, where she was drawn to songs with interesting harmonies and literate lyrics. Since then, she has performed at venues like Yoshi’s San Francisco, and the Empire Plush Room, she has given annual shows at the Herbst Theatre, and she now holds the record for consecutive weeks at The Rrazz Room. In New York, she has performed at Feinstein’s at the Regency, The Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, Jazz Standard, Birdland, Blue Note, The Iridium, and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center. She has been a featured soloist with The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Among her national engagements, Ms. West has appeared at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Boston’s Scullers, Jazz Aspen and major art festivals like Spoleto USA. Internationally she has performed in Europe, Japan, and Israel. She has shared the bill with luminaries such as Rosemary Clooney, Jimmy Scott, Oscar Brown, Jr., Freddy Cole, Mose Allison, Mavis Staples, and Dave Frishberg and she performed at The White House in a salute to American writers. Ms. West has worked with such jazz greats as Bobby Hutcherson, Bill Charlap, Mulgrew Miller, Frank Wess, Victor Lewis, Peter Washington, Regina Carter, Roy Haynes, Eric Reed, and Bruce Barth. For several years, Ms. West performed consistently with The George Mesterhazy Quartet until. Mr. Mesterhazy died suddenly. The CD, “Paula West Live At Jazz Standard with The George Mesterhazy Quartet,” has was released on Hi-Horse Records. Ms West is grateful to have known George Mesterhazy, and to have recorded this project.
MARISSA JARET WINOKUR
Marissa danced her way into the hearts of America n the hit series "Dancing With the Stars", making it all the way to the final 4! Winokur is best known for creating the role of Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical 'Hairspray", winning a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress. She reunited with Harvey Fierstein for a special sold-out engagement of the show at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl. Recent TV credits include "Playing House" on USA, "Milissa dn Joey" on ABC Family and "Retired at 35" on TV Land, starring opposite George Segal and Jessica Walter. Marissa started her career on the stage, appearing as 'Jan' in the Broadway production of "Grease." After moving to Los Angeles, she quickly landed roles in the features "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" and "Never Been Kissed." These were followed by her memorable roles in "Scary Movie," "Fever Pitch, and "American Beauty" where she immortalized the phrase "You are so busted." In television, she has starred in several series and was executive producer of the hit ABC Family romantic comedy "Beautiful Girl" in which she also starred alongside Fran Drescher and Mark Consuelos. Marissa and her husband, comedy writer Judah Miller, live in Los Angeles with their son Zev.
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