'Wicked' witches stirring up an evening of cabaret on June 15

Many members of the national touring production of 'Wicked' will be performing in a fundraiser concert in Denver on Monday, June 15. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Many members of the national touring production of ‘Wicked’ will be performing in a fundraiser concert in Denver on Monday, June 15. Photo by Joan Marcus. 

Lauren HaughtonIn the hard-working world of Wicked, next Monday has been officially declared “Witches’ Night Off.” But it’s really not a night off at all. Because many in the the cast of the popular national touring production visiting Denver this month will be working that night – for a cause.

Witches Night Off is the name of the one-night-only cabaret show that cast members will be performing at the downtown Hard Rock Café Denver to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Doctors Without Borders and, locally, Project Angel Heart and Rainbow Alley.

This is a special treat for Wicked fans, not only because they get to see cast members step out of their roles and perform some of their favorite non-Ozian material, but they will be auctioning off what actor Lauren Haughton calls “once in a lifetime” items.

(Pictured at right: Lauren Haughton.)

“The first one is a ‘Greenifying,’ which includes a backstage tour of Wicked and ends watching Elphaba transform into the green makeup in her private dressing room,” said Haughton, one of a large group of self-starting Wicked cast members who have taken it upon themselves to plan and produce Monday’s benefit.

Another featured auction item is a chance to win a walk-on role in an actual Wicked performance. The winning bidder will receive a rehearsal, a costume fitting and will featured in a few scenes in a Wicked performance sometime before the show closes in Denver on July 5.

In addition, fans can bid on the chance to sit in the orchestra pit and experience the show from below the stage. This winning bidder will leave with a guitar donated by the Hard Rock Café Denver and signed by the entire cast.

We asked Haughton, who is a swing in the show and understudies Nessarose, all about Monday’s show, and more about who and how it will help:

John Moore: What makes Witches’ Night Off more fun than your average fundraiser?

Lauren Haughton: Witches’ Night Off is a unique benefit concert because cast members pick material we don’t normally get to perform. The actors are no longer the characters they play in Wicked; they are just being themselves and singing songs that speak to them. All types of music will be represented: Jazz, pop, musical theatre … so there’s a little something for everyone.

John Moore: Can you tell us a specific number we will be hearing … or is the song list a secret?

Kristine Zbornik as Madame Morrible. Photo by Joan Marcus.Lauren Haughton: One part of the evening I am most excited about is our Madame Morrible, Kristine Zbornik, is doing a set of cabaret songs. Kristine not only has a theatrical resume a mile long, but she is a very accomplished cabaret artist. She’s hysterical and genuine and sure to leave the audience wanting more. 

(Pictured at right: Kristine Zbornik as Madame Morrible. Photo by Joan Marcus.)

John Moore: Tell us a little about the mission and history of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Lauren Haughton: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is an incredible charity helping men, women and children suffering from HIV and AIDS. It helps AIDS organizations across the U.S. including Project Rainbow Heart, which is doing great work right here in Denver. Broadway Cares also helps other causes, including the (New York-based) Actors Fund and the Phyllis Newman Woman’s Health Initiative, which helps women suffering from breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. For this particular benefit, a portion of the proceeds will also go to Doctors Without Borders to help with the devastation in Nepal. 

John Moore: In what tangible ways will an event like Monday’s concert help people in Denver? 

Lauren Haughton: Money raised will help those who can’t afford doctors visits, food, care, prescriptions and more, both locally and nationally. We are also happy to help Doctors Without Borders, because the Nepal earthquakes have really devastated communities overseas. Personally I hope the Denver community comes out to enjoy and support live music. In an age where everything is YouTube and iTunes, sometimes it’s nice to go out and enjoy people performing live in front of you. We are so lucky to have three local musicians joining us on this concert: Matt Amundson (drums), Peter Huffaker (bass), and David Lyon (fiddle). To me, if one kid is inspired by live music or theatre, our job is a success!

John Moore: Why is it important for the theatre community to so steadfastly join in this fight?

Lauren Haughton: AIDS and HIV affected so many artists in the theatre community when the disease was at its worst in the 1980s. Our cast recently performed with Jennifer Holliday in a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit and she shared her story about being on Broadway in Dreamgirls back then. With tears in her eyes, she told us how nearly every week it seemed someone from the Broadway community lost their life to this terrible epidemic. Even in 2015, I think almost every cast member in Wicked knows of someone suffering. I personally have a friend who has been living with and battling the disease since the ‘80s, and it’s thanks to organizations like Broadway Cares that he has gotten the support he needs to stay alive. 

John Moore: How has your cast done its part?

Lauren Haughton: Over the years, Wicked has raised more than any other Broadway show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Our touring company alone has raised more than $2.8 million. For those of us in the cast, Wicked is a phenomenon, a worldwide sensation – and a dream job. I think all of us feel the need to give back, since we have been given so much.

Witches’ Night Off
An evening of song at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver
Monday, June 15
7:30 p.m.
16th and Glenarm streets in the Denver Pavilions, (500 16th St.)
Tickets $20-$40 (tax deductible).
Click here for more information. www.witchesnightoff.org/

More about the local charities:
Project Angel Heart was founded in 1991 to address major challenges facing Coloradans living with a life-threatening illness. It delivers individually modified meals to thousands of Coloradans living with cancer, kidney/heart/lung disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other life-threatening illnesses. The delivery area now includes 640 square miles of metro Denver and 164 square miles in the Colorado Springs area. All meals are delivered free of charge by volunteers.

Rainbow Alley is a safe, drop-in place place that assists young people in need of health care, housing, emotional support, and social opportunities in a hate-free environment. It has given thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth support and encouragement to overcome obstacles ranging from  bullying and harassment to peer and family pressures.

Wicked: Show information
June 3-July 5
Buell Theatre
Tickets: 303-893-4100, 800-641-1222 or  BUY ONLINE
Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., June 27

Our recent NewsCenter coverage of Wicked:
Daily Wicked lottery makes $25 tickets available to lucky winners
Video, photos: Wicked arrives in Denver: Load-In Day
Interview with the two stars on the show’s ‘Popular’ appeal
Wicked a show for the green girl in all of us
Wicked has bonded mothers and daughters for a decade in Denver

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