Two Queen Creek performers 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 virtual event to be streamed live 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 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 performers from across the Valley, according to a release.
Queen Creek’s Tyler Service and Maddie Sue Miller are part of this year’s VYTal Affair-athon cast.
“I started with Valley Youth Theatre at the age of 16 and have been involved in over 20 productions, from on-stage performing to backstage on the technical side,” said 41-year-old Service, who now works as a school resource officer in Chandler. “I was the technical director for VYT for seven seasons and built more than 17 sets. Valley Youth Theatre has played a huge part of who I have become. I learned discipline, friendship, hard work, dedication and a love for music. I consider myself blessed to be a part of the VYT family.”
VYT veterans like Service will be joined onstage by younger performers — like 12-year-old Miller. She shares his sentiments about the theater and jumped at the chance to participate in the fundraiser.
“I want to be part of VYT’s 2021 VYTal Affair-athon because I love VYT and want to help raise money for the theatre,” said Miller, who performed in “Annie,” “Matilda the Musical” and “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” and participates in VYT’s show choir, VYTweens. “I miss performing on the VYT stage and I miss my VYT family. I want to be part of the VYTal Affair because I am so proud to be a VYTkid and want to do anything and everything to help.”
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,” Bobb Cooper, VYT’s longtime artistic director, said in the release. “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.”
Service and Miller certainly are ones to watch.
Service is a frequent performer of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Arizona police ceremonies and professional sporting events. He will sing “Blank Stares” by Jay Allen for VYTal Affair-athon.
Despite her young age, Miller already has won a slew of awards for vocal performance from the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She will perform “In my Dreams” from “Anastasia.”
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.
“The arts as a whole took a big hit and many theaters had their curtains fall for the last time,” Service said. “Valley Youth Theatre is still here because of the foundation of love they have built over the many years and many lives they have touched. VYT is here, in short, because many people love VYT.”
“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, for 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.
Miller can’t wait to be part of this next phase.
“My hope for VYT is that we they can open back up safely and we can start auditioning and watching the amazing shows again,” she sad. “I can’t wait for the day to show up and see all of my friends at auditions and to see everyone at VYT.”
Miller 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.”
For information about VYTal Affair-athon sponsorships, donations or providing an in-kind gift to the telethon, go to www.vyt.com.
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.