|REAFĂÂ˘Ă˘âÂŹĂ˘âÂ˘s Ken Henderson, Christopher Kale Jones and Erich Bergen of Jersey Boys, and REAFĂÂ˘Ă˘âÂŹĂ˘âÂ˘s Joe Seiler at the Jersey Boys benefit. Photo by Rink.
The âOne Night Onlyâ fundraising cabaret production benefiting both Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF)) and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS starred the cast of the hit musical Jersey Boys on April 16 at Club Fugazi. This Tony Award winning show has been one of the biggest hits in San Francisco for quite some time, selling out night after night.
Itâs an amazing cast, loaded with talent, and the performers said they were almost as excited about performing in this special one-time production as the beneficiaries were in producing it. That nightâs show was high energy, fun-packed, and eclectic. At the bottom of the program was this announcement: âIn order to maintain an element of surprise, the cast has elected not to list the song titles in the program.â Well then: SURPRISE! This reviewer cannot credit singers with their songs, since many of the cast were never named, and many of the pieces were untitled originals. So itâs nearly impossible to describe much of the show. The music styles ranged from hard rock to Broadway musicals to ballads. And plenty of humor.
The show opened with the four Jersey boys singing Billy Joelâs âFor the Longest Time,â followed by âUptown Girl.â The guys riffed a lot, exchanging friendly insults and using typical Jersey vernacular and idiom. Think âCawfee Tawkâ from the old Saturday Night Live TV skits. Then Christopher Kale Jones, who plays the part of Frankie Valli, spoke about the two beneficiaries. Broadway Cares was founded in 1987 by members of the performing arts community to help fellow members with AIDS.
REAF was founded in 1995 by Barbara Richmond and the late Peggy Ermet - who both lost their only sons to AIDS - with the mission of helping established AIDS service organizations with grants.
Jones brought out some of the cast members to sing the âW-O-M-A-Nâ anthem: âI can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan,â but with a twist, since one of the singers was a man! Then one of the Jerseys sang an endearing piece [not!] about dumping his girlfriend, âa skanky âho,â for her sister (less skanky).
Ken Henderson and Joe Seiler, REAF directors and producers of these shows, talked about how most local agencies are facing severely declining dollars while demand for services continues to increase. More people with AIDS are living longer, healthier lives, they said, but are depending on the services of local agencies for indefinite periods of time to maintain their health. They pointed out that there still is NO CURE FOR AIDS. Government funding to local agencies is slated to be cut between $4 and $7 million over the next few years, which will be devastating to many local agencies. They stressed that REAF is committed to helping bridge that gap in funding as much as possible to their beneficiary agencies, but they can only do so with the help of the community. They emphasized the need for underwriters to help provide the support these agencies so desperately need.
One part of the show I could have done without was a parody of a game show, with Jersey Boy Erich Bergen doing a flawless Paul Lynde from TVâs Hollywood Squares.
hree contestants were chosen from the audience to compete in a trivia contest regarding Jersey Boy facts. But it just dragged on way too long. With all that talent backstage, I just wanted to get on with it. My wish came true when that segment ended and Bergen got very serious, speaking of how he has grown in the past six months of working with the cast. Then in complete deadpan he began singing the Britney Spears post pubescent âIâm Not a Girl, But Not Yet a Womanâ song, and was soon joined by his fellow Jersey boys - singing while waltzing together and embracing. Too funny for words! Then two cast members did their special Jersey Boys arrangement of âI Can Do Anything You Can Do Better, with each dissing the other, but the woman definitely outdoing the man with her final astonishing high-C note.
On a serious note, Jones returned to do a somewhat somber and very inspirational number from The Full Monty, âYou Walk with Me,â in dedication and in honor of âthose who could not be with us tonight.â
Radically changing the mood again, John Altieri and Jennifer Evans played patient and psychiatrist respectively, doing an impressive counterpoint with Irving Berlinâs musical juxtaposition, âI Wonder Why,â with his: âI hear music but thereâs no one thereâ and her: âyouâre not sick, youâre just in love.â There were so many more acts, including a hilarious medley of pop songs purposely sung in jazz motif, but column space limitation simply does not permit their description. Hopefully the reader is enticed to attend the next âOne Night Only,â and will plan on going to the next annual âHelp is on the Wayâ cascade of stars - Northern Californiaâs largest annual AIDS benefit. Mark your calendars now for Sunday, Aug. 5 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. Producers say they can promise another outstanding line-up of talent performing some of the best music from the movies. So go already, as the Jersey Boys might say.