Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Well, they've done it again"they" meaning The Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation and their annual presentation of Help Is on the Way. You can always count on the show to be the very best. This year it was titled On the Red Carpet: Idols and Icons and there was a wealth of talent on the stage during the two hour plus program; it all went by very swiftly. Director David Galligan can be thanked for that. The event was held at the Herbst Theatre on Van Ness and was a benefit for Meals on Wheels of San Francisco and ALRP (Aids Legal Referral Panel).
The evening of festivities started with Ken Henderson and Joe Seiler giving credit to those who had volunteered their services to the group. The show got underway with the upbeat "Fame" by Michael Gore. It was blazingly sung by Kimberley Locke, Constantine Maroulis, LaToya London, and Melinda Doolittle. Then the winning Paula West beautifully sang David Bowie's "Space Oddity." Michael Walters came onto the stage as Dame Edna, throwing gladiolas out into the audience. He was a hoot singing "Hello, Dolly!" in the Carol Channing and Louie Armstrong style. This was followed by Sony Holland intricately singing "A Case of You" by Joni Mitchell. Her husband Jerry Holland accompanied on guitar. LaToya London rocked out "All the Time," while Jai Rodriguez belted "Man in the Mirror" by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard. Kimberly Locke stunned the audience with Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy's "Inseparable" and proved that she can match talent with tonsils. Jason Brock came onto the stage to sing with thematic resonance Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind," then the touring cast of Beautiful closed the first act with a Carole King medley.
The auction was held during the intermission and included a 12-person, five course dinner at Farallon Restaurant, which went for $2250; a flight to Barcelona and 6-night stay at a first class hotel for two that went for $5750; and two seats at the Tony Awards, three nights at the Hyatt, and two coach tickets to New York, which went for $6500.
Act two started with Jake Simpson powerfully singing Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" followed by Sally Struthers reminiscing about the CBS series "All In the Family" to a video compilation by David Engel. Dancers Rachel Furst and Weston Krukow came to the stage to gracefully dance to Gabriel Fauré "Élégie" to the cello accompaniment of Tristan Bourgade. Constantine Maroulis with his energetic voice rocked to Freddie Mercury and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and Donna McKechnie followed with a song and dance tribute to Fred Astaire. Carole Cook entertained the audience with her droll humor and sang Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" with her distinctive voice.
Branden James poignantly sang two Sondheim songs to James Clark's work on cello: "Every Day a Little Death" which segued into "Being Alive." Melinda Doolittle astonished the audience with her rendition of Charlie Smalls' "Home" before the cast of Beautiful came back to the stage to sing Carole King's "Beautiful," and the whole "Help" cast joined in to poignantly sing Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now". This ended the night of glorious singing.
This year's Help Is on the Way took place on August 21st, 2016, at the Herbst Theatre, Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. Coming up next for the REAF is One Night Only on September 12, a benefit cabaret with the Broadway cast of Beautiful and Bruce Vilanch and Katya Smirnoff-Skye at the Marines Memorial Theatre. For tickets call 415-273-1620 or www.reaf.org.