Five Scottsdale teens will join more than 100 current “VYTkids” and alumni cast members for Valley Youth Theatre’s VYTal Affair-athon, an eight-hour, Jerry Lewis-style telethon to be streamed live from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 21 on vyt.com and on Facebook.
The event will feature well-known stars of stage and screen — like Broadway’s Nick Cartell, who recently completed a two-and-a-half-year run as Jean Valjean in the National Tour of “Les Misérables” — along with beloved youth performers from across the Valley.
“I am happy to be a part of the 2021 VYTal Affair-athon because I love to sing and share the gift of music with others,” said 13-year-old Samantha Zell, who performed in VYT’s productions of “Annie” and “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” and is a member of VYT’s show choir, VYTweens.
“Covid has hindered our ability to do what we love, like performing, singing and entertaining. The VYTal Affair-athon allows us a platform to share, contribute and bring joy to others through music.”
Brianna O’Brien, 13, performed in “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” and is part of VYTweens.
She said, “Being a part of the VYTal- Affair-athon is something that allows me to show off my voice as well as to be able to listen to others. I want to be able to gain new experiences and support the theatre in any way that I can.”
Seventeen-year-old Michael Hook shared these sentiments — not least because he lost the opportunity to perform amid the pandemic.
“I want to be a part of VYT’s 2021 VYTal Affair-athon because I would like to get involved in theatre again,” said Michael, who performed in VYT’s “The Wizard of Oz.” “Covid has taught me to never take anything for granted. As I reflect on the craziness of this year, I now hold the people I love closer and never take anything for granted.”
His twin brother, Kendall, couldn’t agree more.
“I would love to be a part of VYTal because I love all the work that VYT has done over the years,” said Kendall, who performed in VYT’s “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Hobbit,” “The Princess and the Pea” and “Matilda the Musical.”
“I have had nothing but amazing experiences working with such talented people,” Kendall said.
The virtual fundraiser replaces the 27th annual VYTal Affair. It’s second year the COVID-19 crisis prompted VYT to take the event online, but there are benefits to the virtual platform.
“This event is an opportunity to showcase the incredible talent of our performers to people around the world,” said Bobb Cooper, VYT’s longtime artistic director.
“The cast for this fundraiser includes gifted local performers as young as 9 years old, seasoned professionals who were in our shows 30 years ago and everyone in between. It’s going to be a day of amazing performances.”
The goal of VYTal Affair-athon is to raise $250,000 to ensure the nonprofit theatre can continue offering its signature fee-free programming and low-cost ticket pricing.
“It’s impossible to express our gratitude for the support we’ve received over the last 18 months,” said Cooper. “It has touched our hearts and reaffirmed our commitment to inspire young people to be their very best – on stage and, more importantly, in life.”
Most of the performances for VYTal Affair-athon were pre-recorded in July.
In addition to vocal numbers, the event will include live Zoom interviews with alumni, multi-track performances and a few surprise guests. This includes the 21-year reunion of the cast of VYT’s “West Side Story,” which was staged at the Herberger Theater in 2000.
Five alumni performers from the original production – Nick Cartell, Katie “Rex” Casey, Chris Ciccarelli, Sharie “Combs” Nievar and Ian Sidden – will come together for a virtual performance of the powerful “Tonight Quintet.”
VYT also will pay tribute to Capital Group and Bill Lavidge, winners of this year’s Corporate and Individual VYTALITY Awards (Valley Youth Theatre Applauds Leadership Impacting Today’s Youth).
Each hour of the telethon will be hosted by a local celebrity, including Yetta Gibson, Gina Salazar Hook, John Hook, Brad Perry and Carey Peña. The fundraiser also will include a silent auction featuring travel, entertainment, skin care, spa, hotel, food and beverage and dozens of other packages.
“This fundraiser will jump-start the next phase of Valley Youth Theatre,” said Cooper.
Kendall Luther, 17, can’t wait to be part of this next phase.
“I am so amazed by what VYT has done to support its community of actors and actresses throughout this past year,” she said. “Hopefully, we are all able to unite again this year on stage and in person. I cannot wait for what’s next!”
She won’t have to wait long, as the theater just announced its return to live performances. VYT will stage “Spookley the Square Pumpkin, The Musical” from Oct. 1-31. Rounding out the season are the 25th annual production of “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Junie B. Jones, The Musical” and “High School Musical.”
High-profile performers who got their start at VYT include Emma Stone, Jordin Sparks, Kimiko Glenn, Chelsea Kane, Max Crumm, Charity Angel Dawson, Matt Dallas, Columbus Short, Nick Cartell and Sam Primack.
For information about VYTal Affair-athon sponsorships, donations or providing an in-kind gift to the telethon, visit vyt.com.
Editor’s Note: Katy Springer is a public relations professional.