Debra DaVaughn and Chris Simmons are holding their fifth musical fundraiser for the Surrey Food Bank on Oct. 1

Broadway fun to raise food bank funds

Musical theatre featured at Surrey Arts Centre concert benefiting the Surrey Food Bank.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the old saying goes.

What the grammatically questionable idiom means, of course, is that it would be a mistake to repair something that is clearly working just fine.

Debra DaVaughn and Chris Simmons, organizers of an annual concert aimed at raising much-needed dollars for the Surrey Food Bank, are adopting the rationale this year as they plan for their early October musical event.

After all, A Night on Broadway raised about $10,000 last year.

While the benefit show is in its 5th year, the focus last year shifted from an opera line-up to show tunes. The switch was successful due to the music’s broader appeal, allowing Simmons and DaVaughn to help the food bank that much more.

“We really increased the ticket sales,” said Simmons. “We didn’t quite sell out, but we came close.”

A second show was also added last year, doubling the opportunity for ticket sales.

This year’s concert on Oct. 1 at the Surrey Arts Centre again features both an afternoon and evening show, and takes the audience on a journey through a diverse assortment of tunes, both from Broadway hits and from more obscure musical theatre pieces.

It’s a wide array of music, from standards everybody loves, says Simmons, listing off shows such as Guys & Dolls, The Lion King, 42nd Street and West Side Story, to lesser-known selections from musicals like Jekyll & Hyde and Nine.

Once again, Simmons and DaVaughn are counting on director Matthew Bissett to also serve as a narrator of sorts, skillfully weaving together their selection of randomly chosen songs as he did last year.

“We kind of just say ‘here you go, make it work,’” Simmons laughed.

Music director and pianist Angus Kellett, known for his work with Vancouver Opera, as well as myriad other Lower Mainland productions, will also be accompanying the performers again.

“He’s a dream to work with,” said DaVaughn. “He follows the singer so well and he’s so intuitive.

Vocalist Tamara Croft is again on board, as is Langley performer Arne Larsen. And Vanessa Coley-Donohue is re-joining the show, not only reprising her role as choreographer, but singing in several numbers in the evening’s second half.

New on this year’s bill is Tracy Neff, a well-known singer and actor from South Delta who teaches privately, as well as at South Delta Secondary’s acting academy. A graduate of the Boston Conservatory, Neff was most recently featured in the Arts Club Theatre/Belfry Theatre co-production of the 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, playing 12-year-old Olive Ostrovsky.

For Neff, who met Simmons and DaVaughn through mutual friends, putting on a show for a good cause is nothing new. She jumped at the chance to be part of A Night on Broadway.

“I love having an opportunity to use what I have to benefit others,” she said. “I think it’s a great way for performers to give back.”

She’s also excited to collaborate with and meet new artists – a feeling the organizers say is mutual.

“We have found it a great coup for Tracy to join us,” DaVaughn said.

Adds Simmons: “We learn a lot from each other, even in rehearsal. That’s the wonderful thing about music … each person brings their own interpretation.”

Another new addition is Simmons’ and DaVaughn’s four-month-old daughter, who may somehow be worked into the show. The couple’s first chid is, not surprisingly, a musical baby, even falling asleep when she accompanies her mom and dad to rehearsals. Despite being new parents, the pair has remained committed to the food bank fundraiser.

“We knew this would be the first thing that we’d get into after the baby was born,” Simmons said.

As for the show’s future, while it’s definitely not broken, DaVaughn and Simmons have a vision, such as potentially adding an orchestra to the mix, and maybe holding a reception and silent auction to bring in even more funds.

But for now, there’s nothing to fix.

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