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Actors Fund Benefit Concert

July 30, 2012


Photo of Benny Andersson
Photo of Bjorn Ulvaeus
Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (composers) are, of course, the two Bs in the 1970s super group, ABBA, whose best-selling hit singles can be heard nightly at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre in the long-running hit Mama Mia! In addition to Chess, BB (as they are known) are also the composer and lyricist of Kristina, an epic musical that follows Swedish immigrants who brave the ocean journey to settle in the farmlands of nineteenth century Minnesota. After a highly successful Swedish run, the musical has appeared in concert in both Minneapolis and New York (at Carnegie Hall). Their Swedish version of Chess played two seasons at Stockholm's Cirkus, featuring their Kristina, Helen Sjörholm (who also performed in English at Carnegie Hall) and Tommy Körberg, who played Anatoly Sergievsky on the original concept recording of Chess, and on stage in the London premiere.

Photo of Tim Rice Tim Rice (lyricist) is the award-winning lyricist of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber), both of which saw Broadway revivals this past season, as well as the long-running Disney mega-hit The Lion King (music by Elton John). With Lloyd Webber he also created Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and with Elton John, the Tony-winning score for Aida, as well as contributing new lyrics to Disney's stage version of Beauty and the Beast. His own Chess In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008 has sparked a renewed interest in his favorite musical, which has seen so many different versions since its initial West End staging in 1986. And not to be overlooked, Sir Tim is the proud owner of the cricket team, Heartaches.

Photo of Chris Martin Christopher Martin (producer/director/arranger) is the founder of Classic Stage Company, where he directed nearly 100 productions over his 18 years as Artistic Director, including Goethe's Faust I and II, Ibsen's Peer Gynt, Sophocles' Oedipus Trilogy, Aeschylus' Oresteia, Yeats' Cuchulain Cycle, half the plays of Shakespeare, as well as works by Strindberg, Moliere, Chekhov, Pinter, Genet, and Roger Planchon. As an actor he has played Richard II, Falstaff, Prospero, Macbeth, Shylock, Oberon, King John, both Marlowe and Goethe's Faust, and Pinter's Max in The Homecoming. Since 1985, he has been a freelance director/designer and composer for National and State theatres from Scandinavia to Western and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean and the Far East. He received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his translation of the Heiner Müller text for Robert Wilson's The Civil Wars, and a National Theatre Fund Award for his versions of Botho Strauss. As a composer, he created music and lyrics for Jackhammer (the legend of John Henry), and Quasimodo (after Victor Hugo), as well as dozens of theatre scores. A longtime blues guitarist/singer, he has played the smoky clubs of New York, London, and the former Soviet Union. He is currently writing a series of international crime novels, and teaches Shakespeare at HB Studio.

Photo of Valerie Sciarra Valerie Sciarra (Musical Director/Music Supervisor) has worked as a musical director for the past 15 years. Productions include: The Fantasticks, Pirates of Penzance, Chicago, Lost, Urban Stampede, and Keyboard I sub for Billy Elliot. Valerie was the resident musical director for the American Girls’ Revue in NYC, and was a participant in the BMI Music Theater Workshop as a composer/lyricist. The release of her first solo CD, Moon Over Jordan, earned her a spot as a featured artist for Women of Substance Radio and Rockin’ With her former band, 223 Park, she co-wrote the National New Music Weekly #1 single, 'Picture of You'. The band later shared stages with Cher and Cyndi Lauper at the Jones Beach Amphitheatre. She also performed with Michael Cerveris in a benefit for New Globe Theater, and has done recording work for Star Stage Productions. After taking some time off to welcome her second son, Valerie is currently working on her second solo CD. She would like to thank her husband, Brian, for all his love and support. For more information about her music, visit


Photo of Robert Cuccioli Robert Cuccioli (The Russian) starred as Lancelot in the national tour of Camelot with Richard Harris, before making his Broadway debut as Javert in Les Misérables. He received a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical for Jekyll & Hyde, also winning the Jefferson, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Fany Awards for the dual title roles. Off Broadway: Light Opera of Manhattan in Merry Widow, Pirates of Penzance, and HMS Pinafore, as well as The Rothschilds, the Kander and Ebb revue And the World Goes 'Round (Outer Critics Circle Award). He has played the Maury Yeston/Arthur Kopit Phantom, Mack the Knife in Threepenny Opera, Judd in Oklahoma!, Archibold Craven in Secret Garden, von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Cervantes/Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and Dickinson in 1776. At the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey he has been seen as Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, Brutus in Julius Caesar, and Salieri in Amadeus, as well as appearing as Claudius in Hamlet for the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC. A member of the 2006 Off Broadway revival of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, he continues to perform Jacques Brel Returns! at the Triad. Bob is preparing his debut CD, The Look of Love, and on August 7th he returns to Broadway as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.

Photo of Natascia Diaz Natascia Diaz (Florence Vassy) comes fresh from the St. Louis Muny as Velma Kelly in Chicago. She received the 2009 Helen Hayes Award (in a tie with legend Chita Rivera) for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for Rooms. In 2010, she was Esmeralda Agron in Paul Simon’s The Capeman at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, directed by Diane Paulus, for which the New York Times called her performance “heart breaking; one of the most magnetic musical theatre performances of the year”. Broadway: Man of La Mancha (Antonia, u/s Aldonza), Seussical. Tour: West Side Story, Anita (Jeff Award, Kevin Klein Award). Off-Broadway: By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Jacques Brel, Saturday Night, Tick, Tick…Boom! Regional: Brother Russia (Anastasia), Savage in Limbo (Denise Savage), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Helen Hayes nominaation), A Little Night Music USIC (Petra, Kennedy Center). Natascia is featured in her journey auditioning for the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line in the acclaimed documentary Every Little Step. Next up, she revisits Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at MetroStage in DC directed by Studio Theatre’s Serg Siden, opening August 30.

Photo of Drew Sarich Drew Sarich (The American) made his Off Broadway debut in Tony n' Tina's Wedding followed by a tour as a backup singer for Liza Minelli. In 1999, he moved to Berlin to play the title role in Disney's Hunchback of Notre-Dame for more than 500 performances. He was in Vienna revivals of Hair and The Who's Tommy, and returned to Berlin to play the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In 2003, Drew released his first CD, Say It, and appeared in Lapdog and Wildcat, which he co-wrote with his wife, singer Ann Mandrella, before moving on to play the title roles in Jekyll & Hyde, Jesus Christ Superstar and Dracula. Returning to New York in 2006, Drew made his Broadway debut in Elton John's Lestat, before joining the Off Broadway cast of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Back on Broadway, he took over the role of Jean Valjean in the revival of Les Misérables, later repeating his performance in London's West End. Following a run as Count von Krolock in the Vienna production of Dance of the Vampires, he once again reprised the role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. This past spring, he played Curtis Shank in Sister Act, and following Chess he takes on the role made famous by Sylvester Stallone in the Broadway-bound musical Rocky in Hamburg, Germany.

Photo of Tamra Hayden Tamra Hayden (Svetlana Sergievsky) From Broadway to the Blues, critics have called Tamra an "emotionally rich, psychologically detailed singer that can reheat coffee" and "outsizzle Peggy Lee".. Broadway as Cosette in Les Misérables and Texas in Cabaret; Off-Broadway in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; she toured throughout the US as Christine in Phantom of the Opera, Cosette in Les Mis, It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, and Hodel in Fiddler On The Roof (opposite Theodore Bikel); and performed with the Palm Beach Pops, The Nashville, Charlotte, Tucson and New Jersey Symphonies. One of the "Top Ten to Watch in 2010" by CD Baby, Tamra's musical collaborations have resulted in the recordings: Reggae on Broadway, Traditions, Tartans and Tears, Stars at Night, Songs from the North Country, A Day at the Fair, I Believe in the Fire, Angus Mohr's A Christmas Pageant, and Unwrapped. As a musical activist, her music has raised awareness for Union Collective Bargaining, Relay For Life, and Veterans for Peace. The video of her song, "Eden Will Bloom," was presented at The Puffin Cultural Forum Poetry Jam For Peace. Tamra graduated with honors earning a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Northern Colorado. She was awarded a MacArthur Scholarship, as well as a scholarship for Viola. Currently, she performs in the ongoing Jacques Brel Returns, and sings and plays viola in August Moons (a New York based band), as well as Tradition, Tartan and Tears (a Colorado based Celtic Group).

Photo of Raymond Jaramillo McLeod Raymond Jaramillo McLeod (Alexander Molokov) dashes back for Chess from the Northshore Music Theatre where he's been playing Daddy Warbucks in Annie. Broadway productions: A Tale of Two Cities (French President), Wonderful Town (Wreck), Jekyll & Hyde (Simon Stride opposite Robert Cuccioli); Off Broadway: Stryver, Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, (Eddie), Encore!'s Of Thee I Sing and Wonderful Town, the 1998 Chess Benefit Concert (Molokov); national tours: Evita (Juan Peron), Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway. In 2009, Ray appeared in the New York concert premiere of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' epic musical Kristina, at Carnegie Hall.

Photo of Gus Solomons Jr. Gus Solomons Jr. (The Arbiter) has been a dancer and choreographer for more than 50 years, performing with Donald McKayle, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, his own troupe PARADIGM and others; and as a dance writer for the past 30. He has now embarked on an acting career in commercials, film, and theater. In 2004, he appeared in John Tuturro’s film Romance & Cigarettes. In 2007, he made his New York stage debut as Shakespeare’s Othello in a production by Firebird productions. This June, he performed two roles at the Joyce/Soho in David Gordon’s original piece, Beginning of the End of the… He has appeared in commercials for Iceland Air, Connecticare, Merck Pharmaceuticals, and Evian. Chess marks his musical theater debut.

Photo of Scott Wakefield Scott Wakefield (Embassy Attaché) Broadway: It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, Ring of Fire; Off Broadway: The Joy Luck Club, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, The American Clock, and Pilk's Madhouse; Regionally: Milwaukee Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Seattle Rep, Syracuse Stage, Alliance Theatre/Atlanta, and Ford's Theatre in Washington DC. An avid singer/songwriter, Scott has two CDs of original music: Older than Dirt and Vegetarian Nightmare. Onstage he has played both Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie, and most recently appeared in the new musical Hands on a Hard Body at La Jolla Playhouse., which opens on Broadway next spring.

Photo of William Youmans William Youmans (Embassy Attaché) Broadway: Wicked, Finian's Rainbow, The Farnsworth Invention, The Little Foxes, Titanic, Big River, Baz Lurhmann's La Boheme, and The Pirate Queen. Off Broadway: Road Show, The Widow Claire, Brudibar/Giraffe (by Tony Kushner), Coraline; and toured the nation as Smike in Nicholas Nickelby. Most recently, Bill appeared in two musicals headed to New York, Giant and Hands on a Hard Body, and still made time for another journey of Titanic.

Chess Ensemble

Image banner of ensemble members' headshots and names.

Elizabeth Acosta (Ensemble) Broadway: Cyrano the Musical, The Secret Garden; Off Broadway and Regional : In The Heights, Split Ends, Before Icarus Fell, Lucilla's Story, Frida, Candide; Concert and Zarzuela: Allegro, Luisa Fernanda, Nozze di Figaro; numerous commercials & voice over projects.

Jennifer Babiak (Ensemble) Broadway: Fiddler on the Roof (Anya/Chava, Shprintze and Bielke u/s and performed); Tours: Evita (Mistress), Grease (Sandy), West Side Story (Maria); Regional: My Fair Lady (Eliza), Jekyll & Hyde (Emma), Pirates of Penzance (Mabel), Green Gables (Diana), A Christmas Carol (Meg). Graduate of NYU's Stenhardt School of Music and Performing Arts Professions.

PJ Baccari (Ensemble) is truly excited to be a part of this production of Chess and to be benefiting such a great organization as The Actor's Fund! Graduated from Penn State with a BFA in Musical Theatre. You may have seen him recently in Jacques Brel Returns! at the Triad, or possibly serving your steak in midtown. Thanks to the entire cast, crew and creative team. And a special thanks to his amazingly supportive wife Kelly.

Sarah Bierstock (Ensemble) is delighted to be a part of this production of Chess. Sarah is currently a part of the rotating cast of Jacques Brel Returns! at the Triad. Other notable credits include Wendy in the world premiere/original cast of Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan (Santa Barbara Theatre), and national tours of Lewis and Clark, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Alice in Wonderland. Other regional theatre favorites include Into the Woods, Oliver!, and Anything Goes. Big thank you to Chris, family, Dan Whitten and the cast of Jacques Brel.

James Donegan (Ensemble) is thrilled and honored to be a part of Chess. James is best known for his work in Forbidden Broadway, both in the Off-Broadway company and on two of its cast albums (…Goes to Rehab and Rude Awakening). Other New York and regional credits include Company (Bobby), A Year with Frog & Toad (Snail), Roberta (Huck), Triumph of Love (Agis), Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus) and numerous productions of The Drowsy Chaperone (Aldolpho). James studies acting with Caymichael Patten.

Patricia Fletcher (Dialect Coach, Ensemble) coaches speech and dialects for film, television, stage, and is the author of Classically Speaking, Dialects for Actors. Projects include: Harvey Keitel in Little Fockers, 'Life on Mars', and the soon to be released Fatal Honeymoon; Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, Pablo Schreiber in Desire Under the Elms (Broadway, directed by Robert Falls), Jean Reno in Margaret (directed by Kenneth Lonergan), Lynne Redgrave in Grace, and the award-winning cast from Tout ce qui Brille: Géraldine Nakache, Manu Payet and Leïla Bekhti in Nous York slated for release in fall 2012. Currently coaching the American premiere of Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm, directed by Paul Takacs, she is a designated Linklater Voice Instructor, and teaches at the William Esper Acting Studio and the New School for Drama.

Arlo Hill (Ensemble) will be making his Broadway debut this August in Phantom of the Opera. Other appearances include City Center (Encores!: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Where’s Charley?) and Carnegie Hall (Brian Stokes Mitchell’s Christmas Concert and the NY Pops’ Best of Lerner and Loewe). He is also a frequent cast member in Jacques Brel Returns! at the Triad. Arlo is a resident artist with Sightline, with whom he has performed in Hold Music (Ars Nova; The Culture Project), One Arm and a Leg (HERE), and that time… (Dixon Place). Harvard ’08.

Wolfgang Lanz (Ensemble) is thrilled to be singing in this concert to benefit The Actors Fund. Regional credits: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Triumph of Love, Once Upon a Mattress, Damn Yankees, La Bohème, Die Zauberflöte, Dido and Aeneas, Le nozze di Figaro, Salieri’s Harlequinade, and A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. In 2010 he appeared in the film Salt with Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber. He has been a featured soloist at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Durufle’s Requiem, Schubert’s Mass in G, Faure’s Requiem, and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and has sung with the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Natchez Opera Festival, Nashville Opera, and Nashville Chamber Ensemble.

John Anthony Lopez (Ensemble) is a graduate of the Crane School of Music, where he studied voice with Patricia Misslin. Regional credits include: Beauty and the Beast (Beast), South Pacific (Emile), Jane Eyre (Rochester), Sunshine Boys (Ben), La Traviata (Alfredo) and The Magic Flute (Tamino). Metro area credits include Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof (VLOG), Old Deuteronomy in Cats (WPPAC), Joshua in The Seed of Abraham (FringeNYC), Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask (WVMTF), Baal Shem Tov in Secret of our Souls (FringeNYC), Baker in Into the Woods (DeBaun Theatre) and Broadway concert appearances in Camelot and Oliver! (Irish Repertory). John owes much to the support and patience of his son, Corey… thanks kiddo!

Marca Leigh (Ensemble) was last seen at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center as the lead in a new musical under development, and as an ensemble dancer in the feature film The Muppets. Her resume includes many Shakespeare productions, favorites being Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (Inwood Shakespeare Festival) and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Harlem, NYC). She has toured the US and Europe several times in various musicals and plays, and is currently singing in the rock band Third Rail. She is also a painter and cartoonist. Love to Tyler, the Cat Bunch, and Clyde.

Lee Lobenhofer (Mayor of Merano, Ensemble) Broadway: Cats (Gus/ Growltiger), Grand Hotel (Baron), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Miles), Shogun, The Musical (Capt. Gen. Ferriera), I Married an Angel (Peter). Tours: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Donny Osmond (Ruben), Cats (Gus/Growltiger) Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night (lead soloist). Regional Theaters including The Guthrie, Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Old Globe, Goodspeed Opera House, and San Jose Civic Light Opera. Currently Lee is an acting teacher and director at LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts.

Jennifer Montague (Ensemble) recently shot two national commercials. Off Broadway: Big Fat Cat, Helen & Teacher (Annie Sullivan). Regionally: A Year with Frog and Toad, The Fifth Season, The Secret Garden, Nunsense; Beauty and the Beast, The Music of ALW, Oklahoma, Chicago, Carousel, Godspell, Kiss Me Kate, Jesus Christ Superstar with Robert Cuccioli, A Chorus Line, Into the Woods, Brigadoon, Peter and the Wolf, Pippin, Two Gentlemen Of Verona-the musical, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Workshops and readings: BMI, MTW, ASCAP, Dramatists Guild, and NY Theatre Barn. CD: Peas And Honey. BM in musical theatre-Catholic University. Proud member of Actors Equity.

Mark Montague (Ensemble) has appeared in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Little Women, The Secret Garden, Sweeney Todd. Off Broadway: Big Fat Cat at DR2 Stages, Pirates of Penzance/Mikado at City Center; The Music of ALW at the York Theatre, Showboat with Robert Cuccioli, Zeigfield Tenor in Funny Girl, Kiss Me Kate, James Joyce’s The Dead as Bartell D'arcy (Barrymore Award nomination); Olney Theatre, Cleveland Opera, NYGASP. National commercials. Training: Oberlin Conservatory, North Carolina School of the Arts, and Interlochen Arts Academy. Proud member of AEA.

Robert Lance Mooney (Ensemble) is proud and excited to join the company of Chess. Favorites include Show Boat and Room 16 at the Goodspeed Opera House, Sweeney Todd, Floyd Collins, and Into the Woods. Many thanks to DGRW and family. BFA, The Boston Conservatory.

Christopher Mueller (Leonid Vigaand, Ensemble) Regional: Brother Russia, Chess, Sweeney Todd, The Boy Detective Fails, The Hollow, Giant, Kiss of the Spider Woman (Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA); Two Gentlemen of Verona a rock opera (The Shakespeare Theatre); Redhand Guitar (workshop), Skindiver (reading, Arena Stage); 2011 Kennedy Center Spring Gala, New Year's Eve at The Kennedy Center. International: Defiant Requiem (Prague Spring Music Festival). Education: The Catholic University of America, BM; The London Dramatic Academy. A big thanks to to Xris, Natascia, and the rest of the team.

Greg Pearl (Ensemble) is thrilled to play Chess as a drunken German and Commie Russian! Credits: Circle of Friends, American Girl (Place Theatre, NYC); Madagascar Live! (U.S. tour), Thomas & Friends Live! (North American & Pan-Asian tours). Regional: Act II Playhouse (PA), Riverside Theatre (FL), Ashland Theatre Festival (OH), Michigan Theatre (MI). B.F.A., University of Michigan. Big thank-yous to Val and Xris, and love to Rapper.

Scott Pearson (Ensemble) is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity and is thrilled to help support the Actors Fund. He recently finished playing L.M. in Pump Boys and Dinettes at the New Theatre. A native to Pittsburgh, he has performed throughout the United States and internationally. He is a graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts and holds a BFA in Musical Theater. Scott is also a classically trained pianist with over 17 years of training. Some favorite credits include: Guido Contini (Nine), Homer Collins (Floyd Collins), Baron von Gaigern (Grand Hotel, Kennedy Center, DC.), Jinx (Forever Plaid), Bartell D’Arcy (The Dead, Regional Premiere). Scott also tours the world singing the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with The Unexpected Boys, a world-class tribute group. Piano Forte! is his dueling piano act that he created with Million Dollar Quartet & Once star David Abeles and can be seen whenever both of their schedules coincide. Love to my wife Chris, family and friends for the unending support!

Ereni Sevasti (Ensemble) Credits include: The Bacchae (Greek Chorus) at the Delacorte Theatre, Carnival! (Lili) at the Kennedy Center, The Sound of Music (Leisl) at the Papermill Playhouse, Zorba the Greek (The Widow/Ensemble), a staged reading with Antonio Banderas and Chita Rivera. Ereni is the recipient of the Olympia Dukakis Hellenic Times Scholarship Award in the Arts, and teaches voice privately and at Guitar Bar in Hoboken when not performing in Jacques Brel Returns! at the Triad Theatre.