Musical Theatre West Continues Virtual Benefit Concerts

By: 
Isaac Foster

With the future of live theater still up in the air, Musical Theatre West (MTW) is carrying on with their virtual benefit concert series, “Keep the Lights On” which started last year.

For under $30 a show, fans can enjoy an intimate hour-long show that brings the magic of MTW’s productions directly into their living room. Executive Director Paul Garman says that it is an “opportunity to get close and personal with these performers.”

The concerts are being broadcast on the streaming service, Stellar, and can be viewed on any device, including the television. When purchased, the concerts are available to view as many times as one wishes in a ten-day period.

The upcoming schedule includes David Burnham (April 29 - May 9); Anna Mintzer (May 13 - 23); A Celebration of Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May 27 - June 6); Grasan Kingsberry (June 10 - 20); and David Engel, Larry Raben & Bets Malone (June 24 - July 4).

I had the pleasure of viewing the now-expired Sarah Combs virtual concert. Her seemingly natural star power captivated my attention for a whole hour. The chemistry with her singing partner, Tom Lowe, seeped through the screen. The production value added so much to the overall experience of this virtual event.

Most of my exposure to live-streamed concerts have attended before this have been on Instagram Live, which is notorious for poor audio quality and constant reloading and reconnecting. The sound was not only crisp but boomed when songs reached their climax, and my computer did not have to buffer once while displaying a crystal-clear HD picture.

Besides providing some of the most renowned theatrical arts in Long Beach, MTW gives back to Long Beach through its Youth Outreach Program. For starters, they created and operate a Youth Ambassador Program that grants high schoolers the opportunity to have round-table discussions with industry professionals. Along with the invaluable networking experiences, the program is a great way to bring together high schoolers across Long Beach with a similar interest in theater.

Another aspect of the Youth Outreach Program is its commitment to bringing live musical theater to the children of Southern California. When COVID-19 allows, schools are invited to attend special student-only performances of MTW productions at the Carpenter Center.

On top of inviting schools to the playhouse, MTW also brings theater directly to students by performing their educational musical, “We Tell Their Story” live at various schools across Southern California. Because these services cannot be provided with the current circumstances, MTW thought outside the box and filmed a streamable version that can be used by schools.

Along with that, they have also created an eight-part series called, “Careers in Theatre” that give insight into the many employment options in theater. Each episode is 45 minutes long and shines a light on the lesser-known careers in theater. Both of these projects are exclusive to schools as a teaching aid.

With the uncertainty of the pandemic, there is no set-in-stone date for MTW to make its return. When things do return to normal, Garman says that “the staff at MTW looks forward to live performances at The Carpenter Center once they reopen.”

For tickets to the “Keep The Lights On” virtual benefit concert series, go to www.musical.org.

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