Saturday Night Alive Supports Masterclass with Tony Award-Winning LaChanze

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ annual gala, Saturday Night Alive, was held on June 8, 2024. Saturday Night Alive serves as a fundraiser for DCPA theatre and education programs. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $23 million to support locally produced plays, onsite acting classes, and educational programs.

Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

Each year, the gala includes a robust cocktail hour, a performance, a seated three-course dinner, and a Silent Disco afterparty. Saturday Night Alive also boasts an exciting online auction stocked with Broadway memorabilia, travel packages, original artwork, and more.

For this year’s performance, guests were invited to attend a one-night-only performance by Tony and Emmy award-winning actress, producer, and singer LaChanze. Known for her Tony Award-winning role as Celie in the 2006 revival of The Color Purple, LaChanze took to the Wolf Theatre stage to perform a variety of Broadway hits, including Celie’s iconic power ballad “I’m Here.”

Before welcoming LaChanze to the stage, eight nominees from the 2024 Bobby G High School Musical Theatre Awards performed a medley. Those performers included Gabi Karl and Caleb Kezeor, who both won Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role at the awards ceremony in May.

LaChanze, Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

The Bobby G Awards is one of several DCPA Education programs that receive support from Saturday Night Alive’s proceeds. The statewide program feeds into the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as The Jimmy Awards, on Broadway. Karl and Kezeor will represent Colorado at the 2024 Jimmy Awards, making their Broadway debut.

Karl, Kezeor, and two other young performers also received a special opportunity to participate in a masterclass taught by LaChanze, hosted by DCPA Education. An audience was invited to observe, which included Bobby G Award nominees, their friends and family.

Caleb Kezeor, Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

The masterclass took place early on June 8 in the Randy Weeks Conservatory Theatre. Each performer received a turn to perform a solo for LaChanze and the audience. Karl first performed “With You” from Ghost The Musical, then Kezeor performed Les Misérables’ “Bring Him Home.” Those songs will be their audition material at The Jimmy Awards, where they will be considered for scholarships and other acknowledgements.

Following Karl and Kezeor were Ashton Showers and Charlotte Hearn, who were also nominated in the Lead Performer category at the 2024 Bobby G Awards. Showers performed “Hans of the Southern Isles” from Disney’s Frozen; Hearn performed Bright Star’s “At Long Last.”

Charlotte Hearn, Gabi Karl, and Ashton Showers, Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

After each solo, the performers received feedback from LaChanze to use in future auditions. In addition to her performing credits, LaChanze’s experience as a director and producer proved to be invaluable for these aspiring thespians.

Near the end of the masterclass, the floor opened for a Q&A. LaChanze repeatedly emphasized the importance of finding roles that truly suit you as a performer, but also as a person. She gave the advice to ground yourself in the context of the song you’re auditioning with, because a director can tell if you truly feel what you’re singing about.

She shared an anecdote from her audition for 1995’s Company revival. She was auditioning for Marta, a role that had not been previously cast with a Black woman. In her determination to get the part and impress Stephen Sondheim (who was in the audition room), she sang “Another Hundred People” as if she were on a New York City train, eyeing the director, production team, and Sondheim himself as if they were other passengers. Sondheim gave her a standing ovation, and she got the part.

Though the opportunity to see LaChanze perform at the DCPA has passed, tickets are available to see the national touring premiere of KIMBERLY AKIMBO at the Buell Theatre this fall. LaChanze produced this Tony Award-winning Best Musical, which opens in Denver on September 22.