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Students, Alumni Support Musical Theater Program for Adults of All Abilities
Members of the campus community are lending their talent to Front Row Players (FRP), a Syracuse-based musical theater program for adults of all abilities.
Local TV news anchor Farah Jadran G’09 will serve as master of ceremonies for “Take the Stage,” FRP’s annual fundraiser, on Friday, Sept. 27, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Eastern Hills Bible Church, 8277 Cazenovia Road, Manlius.
The program features nearly 30 student and professional performers, including singers Jason Kimmel ’20 and Andrew Tongue ’19, both affiliated with the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). Rounding out the evening are a silent auction, a wine and beer tasting, and food and desserts.
Tickets are $50 and are available online or at the door. For more information, visit frontrowplayers.org, or call 315.663.8390.
FRP Founder and President Deborah Cavanagh says the event is designed to raise awareness of and support for the organization’s mission, which provides dramatic and musical performance opportunities for adults of all ages and abilities.
“We value access and opportunity,” says Cavanagh, also a licensed real estate agent. “FRP empowers a quickly growing segment of our community, giving adults the confidence they need to succeed onstage and in their daily lives.”
Emceeing the fundraiser for the second year in a row is Jadran, who recently joined CNY Central as the anchor of “CBS5 This Morning” and “CBS5 News at Noon.” Fresh from a four-year stint at NewsChannel 9 (WSYR-TV), the Newhouse alumna is president of the Vera House Board of Directors and co-founder of Syracuse Woman Magazine.
“Farah is more than a responsible journalist. She is a community pillar and role model, someone who cares deeply about our mission and wants to make Syracuse stronger,” Cavanagh says.
Eastern Hills Bible Church and Greenwood Winery & Bistro are the event co-sponsors. Donors include Cookies by Lis Fournier, Empire Brewing Co. and Wegmans.
Cavanagh founded FRP in response to her daughter, Amanda, and her best friend, Ellie, both of whom have special needs, as well as a passion for musical theater.
“As youngsters, they participated in community productions, but eventually opportunities dried up for them. I was surprised to find out how many other adults [with special needs] were in the same position,” Cavanagh says.
FRP roared out of the gate in 2016, immediately drawing record numbers of applicants and performing to packed houses.
Each year, FRP offers two semesters of classes, culminating with a fall cabaret and a full-scale spring musical, both at Redhouse at City Center. Past productions include “Shrek the Musical Jr.” (2019), “Wizard of Oz” (2018) and “Seussical” (2017).
Cavanagh attributes FRP’s success to its dedicated volunteers and professional artistic staff, the latter of which includes Director Christopher Rogers, Assistant Director and Choreographer Shannon Tompkins, Assistant Director Sean Egan and Music Director Kay Paulsen. Cavanagh’s son, Jason, is assistant music director.
FRP staffers emphasize collaboration and skill building, within context of a supportive, judgment-free environment. “This approach instills self-confidence, which, in turn, helps develop the whole person,” Cavanagh says.
Earlier this month, FRP launched ONE VOICE Community Ensemble (OVCE)—a chorus for people of all abilities, sponsored by DeWitt Community Church (DCC). Co-directed by Matthew Green and former VPA faculty member Laura Enslin, OVCE promotes inclusion, equity and diversity through live music.
Already booked to capacity, the group will debut on Thursday, Dec. 12, at DCC (time TBA).
“OVCE focuses on process, not product. All we ask is that you, as audience members, listen with your eyes and ears—and your hearts,” says Enslin, whose brother, Joshua, performs in both groups, as well as works in Syracuse University Food Services.
To make a tax-deductible gift to FRP, visit frontrowplayers.org.