By Dave Ongie, News Editor
For eight years running, the annual Broadway Comes to Greeneville event has been a hit on many levels.
Those who buy a ticket and attend the performance on March 24 at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center will be treated to a high-level performance featuring five top-notch stars of the Broadway stage. The local youngsters selected to perform alongside the five stars will have an experience of a lifetime and a shot at some scholarship money.
But the children in our region who depend on Niswonger Children’s Hospital for treatment stand to gain the most, because the annual event puts the mission of the region’s only children’s hospital on center stage.
“It’s a Ballad Health Foundation event, and it benefits Niswonger Children’s Hospital,” said Tiffany Willis, director of events and children’s initiatives for Ballad Health. “There are continuous needs they have throughout the year that they use the dollars for.”
Tickets are now on sale for the eighth annual event, which will feature Broadway stars Jeannette Bayardelle (“Hair,” “The Color Purple”), Jay Armstrong Johnson (“Hair,” “Phantom of the Opera”), LaKisha Jones (“Dreamgirls,” “The Color Purple”), Gary Mauer (“Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables”) and Elizabeth Southard (“Phantom of the Opera,” “The Sound of Music”).
Willis said Johnson and Jones are new to the event this year, and both bring star power with them to Greeneville. Johnson is currently playing the second lead in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway while Jones is a previous winner of American Idol who has made a seamless transition to a stage career.
“When you’re there watching it, you’re truly sitting there watching a Broadway performance,” said Willis. “These are Tony Award winning Broadway stars.”
Auditions held earlier this year yielded 30 talented local kids who will have the chance of a lifetime to perform alongside the visiting stars from Broadway. Twenty-five of those youngsters will perform in the ensemble with the top five earning larger roles. Those five students will also walk away with some money to further their educations.
“The Niswonger Foundation is giving away college scholarships to the top five,” Willis said. “The grand winner gets $2,500, and the remaining four will get $1,000 college scholarships.”
The performance will be loosely based around the theme of “Heroes of Hope,” and will provide those in attendance with an upbeat, well-produced afternoon of entertainment. Showtime will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 24. Tickets are $35 for orchestra seating, $30 for mezzanine seating and $25 for balcony seating and can be purchased at the NPAC box office or www.npacgreeneville.ticketforce.com. Those wishing to make a group purchase should call the box office at 423.638.1679.