Meredith Seike, Dick Pogue and Kathy O’Neill

For the 25th Anniversary of a daring experiment, The Musical Theater Project threw itself a sold-out party for 200 of its closest friends and supporters, honoring dogged determination and unwavering belief in a previously untried mission. That risk has turned into a great success, and guests in cocktail attire cheerfully celebrated. Act One was the cocktail hour in which patrons roamed the smaller second-floor ballroom at the Tudor Arms/DoubleTree Hotel set with café tables on one side and on the other, a silent auction filled with tickets to fine arts programming and concerts.
Act Two, dinner, was held in the larger ballroom, a jewel box of a venue with room for a sit-down dinner, plus an elevated proscenium stage. Service was professional and adept. The meal was followed by a live bidding war energized

Chaz Tumino, Ellen Russell and John Hannon

by auctioneer Bob Hale. The top prize was an evening of entertainment from The Musical Theater Project at the winner’s home – for eight guests or 80 – winner’s choice. Afterward, a lively round of ‘raise the paddle’ brought in additional support. The organization also presented a video of Bob Conrad, the honorary chair of the event and the dean of classical music in Cleveland, having founded WCLV radio in the early ‘60s.
And that brings us to Act Three, the evening’s star entertainer, Liz Callaway. A headlining doyenne of the Cabaret stages in New York, she is an Emmy winner and a Grammy and Tony nominee. She was accompanied by piano player extraordinaire (and occasional backup singer) Alex Rybeck. Callaway, in a stunning silver sequined sheath,

Liz Callaway and Bill Rudman

brought her considerable talent to the stage in a 75-minute set, singing everything from Broadway show tunes to songs from classic movies. She explained that on her social media, she asked followers to suggest songs to include in her concert. “I received over 500 suggestions, and I’d like to sing them for you now,” she deadpanned.
In the end, it was a series of her personal choices from standards to personal connections. She appeared in the Broadway musical Baby and was the singing voice of the Russian princess in the Disney animated film Anastasia, and presented songs from both productions. Additionally, there was a tribute to Judy Garland, and much more, wowing the audience all the way.
The Musical Theater Project (TMTP) is one of the area’s nearly unsung

heroes with a mission to “preserve and honor the 20th-century American musical (both stage and screen) in songs, stories, and social history.” Funding from this benefit will support the Kids Love Musicals programming in local schools in which a professional actor brings scenes and songs to grade schoolers, and for some, introducing them to the musical theater art form. More, the organization, founded by Bill Rudman, will continue with its syndicated radio program Footlight Parade: Sounds of the American Musical, a broadcast heard on more than 100 public and community radio stations, primarily in the United States, but also in Canada, SE Asia, and throughout the world online.
TMTP’s next concert will have over 30 artists performing Waitin’ for My Dearie: Brigadoon and The Miracle of Love at the Maltz Performing Arts Center on June 22 at 7:30 pm. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RITA KUEBER