This year the annual benefit for Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) yesterday (December 8) honored James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director of the York Theatre and performer and producer Haley Swindel. The scene was a gala luncheon at Carolines on Broadway, and the packed event, titled “Follow Your Art, Fufill Your Dreams,” was highlighted by impressive singing and luminaries of the theater world heaping praise on the honorees, who added their own thank you comments.

Jessica Hendy got the gala off to a rousing start with her powerful rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl,” a prelude to opening remarks by Bob Ost, TRU executive director, and by host Suzyn Waldman, who contributed her own singing of “There Used to Be a Ball Park.”

The entertainment roster included performances by Constantine Maroulis singing “This is the Moment” from “Jekyll & Hyde;” Desi Oakley singing “Me and My Baby” from “Chicago;” Andre Catrini playing and singing “My World” from “The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit;” producer-performer Jana Robbins siniging “Come In from the Rain;” D’Jamin Bartlett performing “The Miller’s Song” from “A Little Night Music;” Conor Ryan singing “It’s Good to Be Alive” from “Desperate Measures,” a presentation by the York Theatre in which he appeared; ever-charming Nancy Anderson singing “I’ve Been Invited to a Party” from ‘The Girl Who Came to Supper,” and Allie Trimm with the zesty feminist “Men” from “Enter Laughing.”

Surprise guest Karen Akers sang “My Husband Makes Movies,” a reprise of the number that she did in the Broadway production of “Nine,” based on the film “8 ½.” A special highlight was the tribute by Richard Maltby, Jr, theater director, producer and lyricist, who also sang a specialty number with pauses to tell jokes.

The renowned lyricist and theater icon Sheldon Harnick paid tribute to Morgan, emphasizing his talent as a scenic designer as well as all he has done for theater via the York.

The award to Haley Swindal was the TRU Enterpreneur Award for successfully balancing her career as a theater, film and concert performer with a passion for producing, as well as her generous mentoring and support of so many. In accepting it Swindal stressed that support for the theater “was more important than ever.”

Morgan’s honor was TRU’S Spirit of Theater Award in celebration of his selfless dedication to musical theater. The York is celebrating its 50th year, and in his acceptance speech, Morgan, known for his amusing introduction to shows, quipped about the irony of an off-Broadway theater being celebrated on Broadway. He noted how lucky he was to have focused on musical theater and made his York connection early in his career.

Of course, as befitting a benefit event, focus was also on raising funds, and time was taken to hold an auction with bidding for special cruises and also for the opportunity to contribute funds to keep TRU programming going. At Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway. Posted December 9, 2019.

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