Musical Theatre Stars Team Up For One-Night-Only Fundraiser

The next production at Pompano Beach Cultural Center is running for one night only, on an otherwise sleepy Monday evening. But for its rigorous producer/director, Shari Upbin, the quality control is the same as it would be for a five-week run.

“It’s the same pressure, it’s the same time I need to put toward lights and sound,” says Upbin, a Boca Raton resident. “Because that one performance that people have bought a ticket to is the same as if it were one of eight or 10 performances. We need to give the people what’s due.”

She’s referring to “Hollywood Live!,” a musical revue of Tinseltown tunes from MGM’s Golden Age through late 20th century titles. Running Oct. 1 at the Pompano arts center, the production will raise funds for Insight for the Blind, a Fort Lauderdale-based organization that services the visually impaired by recording audio versions of books and magazines for the Library of Congress’ Talking Books program.

“There are a million patrons across the country who subscribe to Talking Books,” says Matt Corey, Insight’s president, and one of South Florida theatre’s top sound designers. “Insight produces seven periodicals each month, and a quota of books each year.”

Corey knew Upbin from the theatre community, and from their joint involvement in the National Society of Arts & Letters Florida East Coast Chapter, over which Upbin presided for five years. “When she left her presidency, I invited her to join our board of directors here at Insight, because I hoped she had some time to fill. She graciously joined, and soon after that we started talking about an event,” Corey recalls.

Shari Upbin

As Upbin remembers it, “Matt said to me, when you’re done with your term at NSAL, I want you to do a fundraiser for Insight for the Blind. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t! It was almost like the day or week that I stepped down, he called me and said, ‘OK, you’re on—whatever you want to do, you can do.’”

So Upbin decided to revisit an acclaimed production from her time in New York, more than a dozen years ago. “Hollywood Live!” was one of three themed revues she developed with her company Sharell Productions. She would tour theaters, cabarets and colleges, with proceeds, then as now, benefiting worthy nonprofits. “We worked with Ben Vereen and Tony Randall and Karen Akers and Leslie Uggams,” Upbin says. “Just about everyone would be interested in performing because of where the money was going.”

This time, she’ll be directing the South Florida equivalent of these triple-threat stars, with an ensemble of familiar names including Lindsey Corey, Laura Hodos, Amy Tanner, Mark Sanders, Sandi Stock and Conor Walton, with Jeffrey Bruce serving as master of ceremonies. They’ll perform an updated version of “Hollywood Live!,” combining trivia and anecdotes with spirited renditions of songs from the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers collaborations through numbers from “A Chorus Line,” “Funny Girl” and even a medley of James Bond themes.

Given this is Insight for the Blind’s inaugural fundraiser, Corey is keeping his expectations reasonable. “For year one, a successful event would be having a good house and not losing money,” he says. “Instead of thinking in terms of a financial thing, we’re looking at it in terms of planting ourselves in the community a little bit more, and hopefully raise some dollars in the process.”

“Hollywood Live!” runs Oct. 1 at Pompano Beach Cultural Center, 50 W. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach. Doors open for a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by curtain at 7:45. Tickets cost $100-$150. Call 954/545-7800 or visit ccpompano.org.