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'Wicked' cast and first lady light up CATF benefit
Columbus--It was a wicked, wicked night by all accounts as the Columbus AIDS Task Force joined with the cast of the Broadway tour of Wicked, currently in town for a three-week run, to raise money for HIV and AIDS-related work in central Ohio.
The money raised at two events on July 2 will be shared between CATF and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which doles out money to AIDS service organizations across the country.
CATF’s associate director of advancement Sally Blue got the Ohio first lady Frances Strickland to show up at the day’s two events. Blue said that Strickland was there to support the groups because of the “commitment to humanitarianism and diversity on the part of the first lady and the governor.”
The first event of the evening was a private reception at Cocoa Manor, the Victorian Village home of Greg Zanetos, owner of Anthony Thomas Candy. Approximately 115 people showed up to this reception and they eventually joined another 100 people at the Axis nightclub in the Short North for a two-act performance by many of the cast and crew of Wicked.
At Cocoa Manor, Strickland spoke about two recent incidents that had further driven home to her the importance of working hard towards eradicating HIV. The first was a visit to a homeless shelter in Dayton where she encountered a man who told of being rejected by his family after he had come out to them about his affliction. He was spending the rest of his days at this shelter. She also said that she and the governor recently found out that one of their close acquaintances is HIV-positive.
The event at Axis was emceed by Peter Van Dyke, the production stage manager of Wicked, who thanked Ohio audiences for being such fans of the show and completely selling out the tour. WCMH Channel 4 anchor and CATF board member Colleen Marshall thanked Van Dyke and the cast.
“They do eight shows a week and they are spending their day off helping us raise money,” Marshall said.
In addition to performances by the cast and crew, local drag diva Nina West opened the show backed up by four members of the Flaggots Ohio flag corps. In the second half of the show, West serenaded the first lady with a witty rendition of “Popular” from Wicked that got a standing ovation. West told the first lady that she greatly appreciated the governor’s stance on diversity in his administration.
Touring band member Will Van Dyke accompanied all the performers including Phillip Lightstone, Tom Flynn, Brian Crum, Brad Weinstock, Peter Van Dyke, Phillip McBride and others. The Axis audience event were treated to a big surprise when Victoria Matlock, who plays Elphaba the green witch, performed two numbers. Matlock has not appeared in the show’s Columbus performances because of a back injury, being replaced by her stand-in Colleen Sexton.
In addition to the ticket costs for the reception and performance, money was also raised by auctioning off prizes. The prizes included two Jet Blue tickets to anywhere the airline flies and two backstage tours with private receptions with the actors playing Elphaba and Glinda.
The biggest prize auctioned off was a guest appearance on stage during the Columbus run, where the lucky winner will appear in three scenes of the musical. The bidding for this got hot and heavy, and because two bidders were willing to match the high amount of $4,000, Peter Van Dyke made a spot decision to allow both to make this one-of-a-kind guest appearance. All the auctioned items came with two much-coveted tickets to the sold-out run.
The governor and his wife have been lending their presence and support to the gay community in recent weeks, returning the support of LGBT citizens who helped him get elected. Last month, Strickland became the first sitting Ohio governor to attend the annual Columbus Human Rights Campaign dinner.
Blue said that the events raised upwards of $20,000, which would be shared equally by CATF and the Equity charity.
Peter Van Dyke praised CATF, Blue and acting director Chad McCoury for the work they do.
“I mean it in all sincerity when I say that I hope for the day when you don’t have a job,” he added, referring to a day when HIV and AIDS are eradicated.