Arts and Entertainment

Sing, sing, sing a song for Rwanda

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Broadway stars fly to Sequim for benefit

Sequim Gazette

Yet again Readers Theatre Plus has put together a program fit for Broadway.


Its “Girls, Guys & Gorillas,” a benefit for RwandaNow, brings in top talent from Broadway and Los Angeles along with local stars for two performances Oct. 12-13, of Broadway hits and ballads.


Headliner Juliana Hansen’s voice is compared to Julie Andrews’ and Hansen has appeared in multiple productions such as “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (as Millie), “Les Miserables” and the “Fantasticks.” She continues to do multiple projects for Disney, has worked under Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and recently debuted a solo cabaret show in Los Angeles.


Leading man James Mulligan has appeared in a number of touring productions, playing in “Jekyll and Hyde,” in “Little Shop of Horrors” and in “Guys and Dolls.” He’s studied at the Atlantic Theatre Company under the tutelage of actors William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman.


Co-organizer Carol Swarbrick Dries said there will be a lot of challenging numbers among participants.

“There will be some lovely duets and some never-before-heard solos in Sequim,”  Swarbrick Dries said.


She, Hansen and Mulligan all starred in different productions of “Beauty and the Beast,” Hansen as Belle, Mulligan as the beast and Swarbrick Dries as Mrs. Potts, so they plan to sing a number together as their characters.


All professionals are donating their time for the performances to help RwandaNow, a Seattle nonprofit that helps Rwandan communities with education and environmental conservation, particularly in preserving the endangered mountain gorillas.


Leading  the music is Linda Dowdell, musical director for Port Townsend High School’s performances and a storied composer/arranger with a number of companies and productions.


“This is a great opportunity for all of us,” Dowdell said.


“That’s the great thing about theater. There’s always a mix of backgrounds and everyone here has a professional work ethic which is inspirational for everyone.”


New talent takes the stage, too. Ashleigh Schoenle, 17, a Sequim High School senior who is pursuing a musical and theatrical career while finishing up her studies, sings original song “Armor” and Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar.”


Swarbrick Dries’ most recent performances include Seattle’s The 5th Avenue’s “Damn Yankees,” “Titanic,” “A Christmas Story,” and many more. She has several other stage and film and television performances.


Emceeing the event is RwandaNow advocate Penny LeGate, a Seattle journalist, who will share the group’s efforts to save the endangered gorilla population of Rwanda and Uganda.


Jim Dries is narrating the evening to segue between performances.


He said the speech on RwandaNow will be brief and people should come expecting to be entertained.
Reach Matthew Nash at
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