Broadway Stars to Shine on QO Stage

Photo | Submitted Tony-nominated Broadway star Jessie Mueller will be visiting Quince Orchard High School.

Photo | Submitted
Tony-nominated Broadway star Jessie Mueller will be visiting Quince Orchard High School.

This event has been canceled due to a family emergency.

Broadway is coming to Gaithersburg this month with an event theater lovers won’t want to miss.

Acclaimed Broadway performers Jessie Mueller and Melissa Errico will appear at Quince Orchard High School on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. where they will perform songs, answer questions and discuss their careers. The event is free and open to the public.

Mueller, perhaps best known for her Tony-nominated role in “Waitress,” received a Tony Award for her portrayal of Carole King in the musical “Beautiful.” Local audiences may remember her recent appearance in “The Music Man” at the Kennedy Center.

Errico earned a Tony Award nomination for Broadway’s “Amour” and a Helen Hayes Award for “Sunday in the Park with George” at the Kennedy Center.

So how do such high-profile artists end up performing at Quince Orchard High School?

The performance is part of a program called ArtSpeak! that brings Broadway performers to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) four times a year with the goal of fostering young people’s interest in theater.

ArtSpeak! is a pro-bono endeavor of Mark Shugoll, CEO of the Bethesda-based Shugoll Research, who has been working since 1997 to bring some of Broadway’s brightest stars to the DC area. “If young people have an up close and personal experience with a celebrity performer, we hope that stays with them so they will become lifelong theatergoers,” Shugoll explained.

Performers including Lea Michele, Kristin Chenoweth, Santino Fontana and Patti LuPone have headlined past events. “The performers are all believers in arts education who want to give back to the community in some way,” Shugoll noted.

When the school district announced that they were looking for an ArtSpeak! host school, Jess Vogel, artistic director of Quince Orchard Theatre, jumped at the opportunity. “I’m baffled that we even get to do this,” Vogel said. “I hope it teaches people that putting on live theater is just as much work as playing a sport and deserves the same level of respect.”

Vogel put together an “ArtSpeak! Council” of 10 students who learned the basics of theater marketing so they could promote the event. These students will be invited into a private rehearsal prior to the Oct. 29 performance where they will be able to chat privately with the artists. Two of these students, senior Malachi Green and freshman Fiona Bradford, will serve as emcees at the event.

Shugoll wants other audience members to interact with the performers as well. “ArtSpeak! events are educational, but mostly we want them to be fun and inspirational,” he said, noting that he will interview Mueller and Errico and then open the evening to questions from the audience and a fun game called “three questions” in which one lucky student will be randomly chosen to sit on stage and ask the stars three questions. The student emcees will then host a trivia contest. Winners will receive Broadway memorabilia autographed by Mueller and Errico.

The event will culminate with Mueller and Errico performing a handful of songs. Organizers are not sure what songs they will choose to perform, but Shugoll guesses that Mueller will perform at least one or two of her recent Broadway hits, while Errico, who recently put out an album of Stephen Sondheim music, will draw inspiration from that recording.

The ArtSpeak! event will take place one week before Quince Orchard Theatre’s fall production, “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood” (described by Vogel as “a Monty Python-esque farce”). No doubt, the QO thespians will go into their fall production inspired by the unique experience of meeting and learning from leaders in their field.

“That’s the thing about the arts,” Shugoll said. “If you’re exposed to it at an early enough age, it stays with you your whole life.”

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