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‘{One}’ fundraiser making third appearance for children’s hospital

January 14th, 2014 8:46 am by Leigh Ann Laube

‘{One}’ fundraiser making third appearance for children’s hospital

Mountain States Foundation/Adam K. Campbell/

  Since she’s in charge of raising money for a children’s hospital, Cookie McKinney thought it reasonable that children should be included in a fundraiser.

  “One of my supporters had suggested we do an ‘American Idol’ sort of competition and I said, ‘We are in the business of raising money, not spending it, and I don’t know what I could give as a prize,’ ” said McKinney, who is manager of children’s initiatives at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City.

  So McKinney turned to Broadway — more specifically, some friends on Broadway who have huge hearts for children. They decided to host a youth talent search, then let those winners perform with a number of Broadway actors. Three years ago, the children’s hospital hosted the first “{One} Singular Sensational Evening” fundraising event at Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC) in Greeneville.

  “I wanted to connect the dots between the hospital, NPAC and my talented friends. Why not utilize them as long as they were willing to do it?” she said.

  Auditions for the third “{One} Singular Sensational Evening” for children between the ages of 7 and 17 will be held at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 20, at East Tennessee State University’s Mathes Music Hall, Room 107; at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 27, in the Annie Hogan Byrd Theatre at Tusculum College; and at 5:30 p.m., Feb. 3, at Barter Theatre Stage II in Abingdon, Va.

  “We audition in three different cities. We try to keep the children and families forefront because that’s why we’re doing this to begin with. Our dollars raised help the sick children. To me, it makes total sense,” she said.

  Those auditioning are required to prepare a Broadway song, a country song or a classical song of their choosing. Each vocalist will have a one-minute performance time. A CD player and a piano will be available at each audition, but vocalists will need to bring their own accompanists if desired.

  Five finalists, including one featured soloist, will be invited to perform with four professional Broadway stars at NPAC on April 12. The event, which also features the Charles Goodwin Orchestra, is a benefit concert to support Niswonger, which serves more than 200,000 children in a fourstate, 29-county region. It is home to one of only six St. Jude Affiliate Clinics.

  Making their third appearance during “{One} Singular Sensational Evening” will be Gary Mauer, Cary Miller, Denise Di-Renzo and David Elder.

  Mauer most recently starred in the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” playing the Phantom. Broadway and National Tour credits also include “Les Miserables” and “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.” Other favorite performances include “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Pirates of Penzance.”

  In addition to being a performer, Miller is a child life specialist. She has performed on Broadway in “Saturday Night Fever” and the national tours of “Little Women” and “Seussical.” Her regional performances include “State Fair,” “Peter Pan” and “A Chorus Line.”

  DiRenzo has performed on Broadway in “Cats,” “A Chorus Line,” the original company of “42nd Street” and “Sophisticated Ladies” with Gregory Hines. Tours and regional performances include “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Peter Pan,” “Falsettos,” “42nd Street” and “Hot Mikado.”

  Elder recently completed the national tour of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” in which he played Phil Davis, made famous by Danny Kaye. His Broadway credits include “Curtains,” “42nd Street,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Titanic,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Damn Yankees,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Guys and Dolls.”

  “It’s the same group of performers. We had thought with schedules that last year might be the last year,” McKinney said. “They all said when they left, ‘We want to come back next year.’ We got it on their calendars. They rehearse in New York. They have their portion of the show prepared. They arrive here on Thursday and we rehearse with the children ... and we do a show.”

  The auditions are anonymous, with judges choosing finalists by numbers, not names, McKinney said.

  “Once we’ve gone through the three auditions, CPAs tally the votes. They are judging on voice and stage presence. It’s a memorable evening. You are seeing for $35 a show that you’re paying $135 for in New York.”

  McKinney said money raised might be used to purchase syringe pumps for children at Nisw o n g e r.

  “We constantly need syringe pumps here and those are around $5,000 apiece and one patient can be attached to four or five. I don’t have a specific need right now. We did raise money for those last year, but we need them ongoing and they are not inexpensive and they accurately dispense medications and are very vital to the patients,” she said.

  Tickets for “{One} Singular Sensational Evening” are $35 and $25 and are available at www. ? or by calling 638-1679. Presenting sponsors of the event are Consumer Credit Union and the Mountain States Foundation.

  For more information, call Cookie McKinney at (423) 431-1224.

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