IOWA DERECHO 2020

Ron Livingston, all-star lineup to hold derecho relief concert

Ron Livingston, Marion native, TV/film
Ron Livingston, Marion native, TV/film
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The wheels began turning as Brian Glick cleared derecho debris in downtown Cedar Rapids.

A resident of the Smulekoff’s building, he was volunteering for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance in the days following the Aug. 10 storm that devastated the region.

“You’re thinking while you’re working,” he said. “I thought, ‘What could we do to help those in need and how can we do it through the arts?’”

That’s a natural question from the entertainment entrepreneur who, with Cameron Sullenberger, founded the professional Revival Theatre Company in Cedar Rapids in 2014. His other theatrical directing experiences stretch over the past decade, reaching into New York as well as Eastern Iowa.

His answer was to organize the Iowa Concert of Hope, airing at 7 p.m. Thursday on KCRG-TV 9.2 and online at iowahope.com

Funds raised during the event will benefit local derecho-response efforts, including the Iowa Derecho Resource Center, the Iowa Giving Crew and the Disaster Recovery Fund of the United Way of East Central Iowa. Donors also can support the Peggy Boyle Whitworth Fund at the heavily damaged Brucemore historic site, which hosts a wide range of arts and entertainment events each year.

Glick didn’t have to go far to start rounding up concert participants.

“We have incredible talent here, and we have incredible talent from here who have gone out to do big things in TV, film and Broadway,” he said.

So he started working his connections, reaching out to local singers to gauge their interest. Then he contacted Cedar Rapids native Kim Scharnberg, now based in Connecticut, who brought the Instrument of Hope trumpet to Cedar Rapids during the 2019 Revival Theatre production of “Oklahoma.” Commissioned by Shine MSD, a gun-violence awareness group developed in the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre, part of the trumpet is made out of bullets.

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Scharnberg also is a Grammy-nominated producer who has composed and/or orchestrated music for television, film and Broadway.

“He has a plethora of contacts and stars he’s worked with over the years,” Glick noted. He asked Scharnberg if he’d like to participate in this fundraising endeavor. He said yes, and offered to reach out to some industry friends.

“It just sort of took off from there,” Glick said.

Scharnberg is now serving as a producer for the concert, along with artistic director Glick and Marion native Dan Kane, a comedian, executive producer, artistic director, writer and performer, primarily in Los Angeles. Kane brings a decade of online production expertise to the mix.

All-star lineup

The star-studded lineup includes Betty Buckley, Tony-winning star of “Cats,” and a familiar face on Broadway and TV (“Eight is Enough”); Cedar Rapids natives Timothy Shew (“Les Miserables” and the national tour of “Hello, Dolly” with Buckley) and Catherine Blades, who performed with Shew in the Broadway revival of “Bye Bye Birdie”; Grammy-nominated composer and jazz performer Chris Brubeck; and award-winning Broadway actors Janet Dacal (“Prince of Broadway” and “In the Heights”), Linda Eder (“Jekyll & Hyde”) and Trent Kowalik, Tony-winner for the title role in “Billy Elliot.”

Also performing are singers Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers and Edwin McCain (Top 40 hits “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask for More”); Broadway and television actor Elena Shaddow (“The Visit” and “The Bridges of Madison County” onstage and “The Sound of Music Live!” starring Carrie Underwood on TV) and her husband, Cedar Rapids native and award-winning dancer Michael Harrington; Cedar Rapids native and Metropolitan Opera soprano Kelly Cae Hogan; and other national performers with local ties, including Kevin Worley and Christopher Johnstone.

The local lineup includes Amy Friedl Stoner, who performs in St. Louis and New York City cabarets; Steinway artist Jim McDonough; Karla Goettel, who has performed opera, musical theater and recitals across the country; and singers Janelle Lauer, Lynne Rothrock, Alisabeth Von Presley and Alicia Strong. For the full list, go to iowahope.com/performers.html

Marion native Ron Livingston, star of “Office Space,” “Band of Brothers” and “A Million Little Things,” will introduce the event and KCRG News Anchor Beth Malicki will serve as host.

How to watch

• What: Iowa Concert of Hope: a virtual concert to benefit derecho relief projects

• Featuring: National and local talent from the worlds of film, Broadway, TV, dance, opera and cabaret

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday

• Where: KCRG-TV 9.2 (Mediacom channel 109/815, ImOn channel 709/817), and online at Iowahope.com

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• Donations: Benefit for Iowa Derecho Resource Center, the Iowa Giving Crew, the Disaster Recovery Fund of the United Way of East Central Iowa and Brucemore’s Peggy Boyle Whitworth Fund to support performing arts at the historic site

• Details: iowahope.com

Plan came together in a matter of weeks

Glick and company pulled the event together in just three weeks, speaking with performers on the phone and requesting videos to weave together for the virtual presentation.

“Everyone has just been really wonderful,” Glick said, adding how much he’s enjoyed talking with them about the project and its purpose. Those with local ties knew of the derecho and its destruction, but others didn’t know of the severity of its impact.

“Another aspect that’s been great is talking on phone with these people who I knew of, but didn’t know,” he said, “and building a collaborative relationship with them. They were asking about the community and what was going on, so it’s been really, really wonderful piecing it together. It’s really turned into something quite big.”

Having performers who represent a wide range of styles, genres and experiences was intentional.

“We have this incredible list of performers,” he said, despite so many requests for star power to raise funds for natural disasters across the country.

“Because it’s affected everybody, the program is extremely diverse,” Glick said. “You have Broadway, you have opera, you have some pop stuff in there. That was important for me in designing the program, because this is for everybody, because everybody was affected. That was an important aspect.

“Because of that, we got really lucky that we got to chat with a woman who had worked on the CMA Awards, and we got to look at that set list for how they built the program, and used that template, so that helped us. She said, ‘You’ve got to make it easy for these people who don’t have a lot of time.’

“For instance, there are a handful of videos that are from previous events, but they’re doing personal greetings before the video goes,” Glick said. “You have videos that have extremely high production value to really nice quality in-home or studio recordings. We love that. It keeps it interesting and diverse and unique.”

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The program will take on serious notes, too, describing the extent of the storm’s destruction, featuring photos and video footage to underscore the need for financial support for the ongoing recovery efforts, as well as messages from the beneficiaries of the event donations.

“This is 75 square miles of destruction, so it literally affected everything and everybody, so the need is so great,” Glick said. “It’s proven difficult to keep up, so the more we can offer resources and awareness, and reminders that people are still struggling to dig out from this, this is just one way in which we can do that.

“I keep saying we are helping those in need through the healing power of the arts. We have had and continue to have a thriving arts community and this is a way to give back. And it’s a good excuse to perform, which we’ve had very little of, so it’s great.”

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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