‘Concert for America’ comes to WMPAC

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – On Dec. 27 and 28, the touring benefit production “Concert for America” makes its Montana debut, and marks the official start of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center’s winter season.

Developed by husbands Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley of the SiriusXM radio program “On Broadway,” “Concert for America” features big name stars of the stage and screen in a performance that benefits five national charities: the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Sierra Club Foundation, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. All ticket sales from the two concerts will be split evenly among the charities.

“After the [2016] election, James and I wanted to do something to help,” said Rudetsky, referring to issues of social justice and the environment that they felt were threatened by Donald Trump’s political upset. They decided the best means of doing so was through music.

“Yes, we’d raise money, but we really wanted to cheer people up,” Rudetsky said. “We like to do [a concert] every month as a sort of ‘refueling station’ so people can watch, cheer themselves up and go out to continue to be active citizens.”

The WMPAC performance will showcase six well-known talents in theater, television, and film singing hit songs from their performing arts careers—along with comedy and commentary by “Concert for America” founders, Rudetsky and Wesley.

“This type of production is unprecedented in WMPAC’s short history,” said WMPAC Executive Director John Zirkle. “Every person and entity involved is donating a portion of their time and services to the cause in the hopes of protecting human rights, civil rights and the environment. If that weren’t the case, we could never dream of producing a show with this type of star power.”

Those familiar with the Broadway stage will likely recognize Audra McDonald (“Porgy and Bess,” “Carousel”), Vanessa Williams (“Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” “Into the Woods”), Abby Mueller (“Beautiful”), Jessie Mueller (“Beautiful,” “Waitress”) and Andrea McCardle (“Annie”).

Television viewers might recognize McDonald from “Private Practice” or “The Good Wife”; and Williams from “Desperate Housewives”; on the big screen, McDonald has performed in “Annie” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Among them they’ve earned seven Tony Awards, one Emmy Award, and a National Medal for the Arts from President Obama received by McDonald in 2015.

In describing how “Concert for America” came to be, performing artist Jessie Mueller said she was talking to Rudetsky and Wesley after the election, “a bit mired in confusion and fear,” and decided to contribute her musical talents to the cause.

“It’s necessary to be good to one another and reclaim the idea that we could be a nation that cares about one another; that we’re not built on divisiveness but inclusion,” Mueller said. “And music brings people together—always has, always will.”

Zirkle thinks the combination of the holidays, the caliber of talent and the cause will pack the theater, citing high tickets sales weeks before the event.

“We are so thrilled about Montana because we are bringing such an amazing group of stars who are not only committed to social justice but are world class performers,” Rudetsky said. “Get ready Big Sky, here comes Broadway!”

“Concert for America” performances are 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 27, and Thursday, Dec. 28, at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky. Visit warrenmillerpac.org for tickets and to learn more about the performers and the charities that are being supported by the event. The event will also be streamed live at concertsforamerica.com.