I attended the Covenant House 40th anniversary benefit this week.* My friend brought me because she saw it had something to do with Broadway being called " A Night of Broadway Stars." I saw that Jeremy Jordan was on the bill so I figured it was worth going to.
Capathia Jenkins is on the Board of Covenant House so she sang a bunch which is always a good thing. But others on the bill were total unknowns to me (which isn't saying much as I'm not really a musical theater aficionado).
The line-up included Ron Bohmer (singing All I Ask of You from Phantom), Lawrence Clayton (known for his work in Les Miserables but sang from Jesus Christ Superstar and was great), Rob Evan (singing This is the Moment with Frank Wildhorn on piano), Rita Harvey who was apparently married to the master of ceremonies Neil Berg (but she has played Christine Daae and was the other half of All I Ask of You), Michael Lanning who brought back to me all the moments of Bonnie and Clyde I didn't like (singing Here Comes the Sun with an out of tune guitar), and Danny Zolli (known for his work in Jesus Christ Superstar, singing Somebody to Love,) who was, I kid you not, wearing an Ed Hardy jacket and looked basically like Ron Jeremy.
They were all good singers but something seemed to be missing in the spark and spectacle department. I mean of course except for Jeremy Jordan. He sang Something's Coming and well he was perfect in every possible way. And there was a moment where Ron Bohmer sang a slightly anti-Semitic song about not understanding bagels and lox which was sort of the most lively things got on the musical bill.
Playing against the theme of "A Night of Broadway Stars" were a bunch of not-Broadway stars. Laura Bush was there with her daughter Barbara Bush. Also present was Martin Scorsese...I mean to round out the total and utter frickin weirdness. They did have some wonderful teens speak about their personal struggles and their road to Covenant House. It was a benefit so there were photo and video montages of kids in need and success stories ("My mom stabbed me. And I ended up at Covenant House." !!!!). Sincerely touching and moving stuff. I was handing out tissues. Lest you think I am truly dead inside...children in crisis will make me cry.
But the evening for me was sadly overshadowed by one particular speaker...this grown woman got up to talk about how as a child she had benefited from Covenant House. She proceeded to tell us a disjointed story about her homeless to Harvard life (she has 4 degrees from Harvard which she mentioned like 15 times). She proceeded to tell us how her Dad escaped North Korea and helped his 12 siblings survive and sang her lullabies and encouraged her to play the violin and then beat her. And then she nursed him when he was paralyzed (no explanation) and her mother went deaf (no explanation) and she had to care for her mentally challenged brother. She made some weird reference to weaving dreams out of scar tissue. And her heart was covered in barbed wire...
Somehow her storytelling escalated into yelling. I was almost hiding under my chair from the yelling. I know I am critiquing a non-professional speaker who was just there to share her life story but honestly compared to the teenagers who also spoke, she did not do as good a job as they did.
After we were berated, we left. We did not even stay to see Jon Bon Jovi get his award. Because there was in fact more wackiness to come.
The whole episode with the angry lady made me think a lot about the work of The Civilians. There is an art to editing what real people say into something beautiful and touching. It's not easy to take real people's lives and weave a dramatic and poetic story. Seeing someone do it badly really does make you appreciate the skills and talent of people who are successful at storytelling.
Somehow the teens of Covenant House told their personal stories with sincerity, humor and pathos. Good on them!
*I attended as a guest and did not pay for a ticket to the event.