Has the state of the world got you in the doldrums? Feeling down? Hopeless? May I suggest a show tune?
Broadway has always projected a spirit of communal, can-do pluckiness in the face of adversity, and the Concert for America — which features Broadway stars performing in support of politically progressive causes — seeks to evoke that spirit in order to inspire viewers to stay positive and engaged during turbulent times. The show arrives in Atlanta on August 28 for one night only at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts.
“After the election, we didn’t know what to do, so we thought: well, the way we’ve always gotten things done is through music,” says Broadway actor, director, musician and SiriusXM radio host Seth Rudetsky, who created Concert for America along with his husband James Wesley.
The first Concert for America happened on Inauguration Day 2017 with a constellation of Broadway stars convening at New York’s Town Hall Auditorium to deliver a hopeful message through song on a day that seemingly had very few hopeful messages to offer. “Everyone was so negative in the press, and we really wanted to cheer people up,” says Rudetsky.
Now, the Concert for America has become a monthly event, taking place in different cities with different performers at each stop. The Atlanta concert slated for August 28 includes actor/director Hal Sparks, Tony Award winner Lillias White, singer Melissa Manchester, YouTube star Randy Rainbow, Jessie Mueller, Sharon Gless, Kim Fields and more. The show, like the other Concerts for America, will help raise money for the N.A.A.C.P., the National Immigration Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“It’s become a refueling station, a way to stay really positive and unified, and then you have the energy to go out and become an active citizen again,” says Rudetsky. “We’re not in denial about what’s happening, but all the music is very inspiring and exciting.”
The concerts also feature speakers from the various organizations to let audience members know how they can get involved. Ruth Glenn, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence executive director; Ted Terry, Sierra Club Georgia Chapter director, John Seydel, City of Atlanta director of sustainability; and Norbert Friedman, the 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, will all speak at the Atlanta event.
In each city, the lineup also includes local performers connected to the region. For the Atlanta concert, audiences will see Atlanta natives Royce Mann (whose poem “White Boy Privilege” became a viral video hit), Nora Schell (from Spamilton), Ryann Redmond (from Bring It On: The Musical) and area students from the international performing arts training institute Broadway Dreams with students from Orbit Arts Academy and Atlanta Workshop Players.
Rudetsky says that at each stop, the audiences have often been a strange but interesting mix of fans who are there primarily for the music and people who are there primarily for the causes. “There are people that are actively for social justice, and others are like ‘Yay, it’s a high note!’ It’s really both,” he says.
In the end, no matter what brings people there, Rudetsky says he hopes the concerts will leave viewers feeling more positive and more informed about what they can do moving forward. “It’s this joyous event where you feel a part of it,” he says. “You look around and you’re reminded that all of these people believe in civil rights. All these people believe in helping the environment. And then you can go back and do whatever you need to do to save the country.”