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'Broadway Comes Home' to Spectrum Center for anniversary celebration

Adam Schnitzer/Daily
Spectrum Center Members led a tour around the 'Pride (Not Prejudice)' exhibit in the Art Lounge of the Union yesterday. Buy this photo

By Arielle Speciner, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 17, 2011

The Spectrum Center is pulling out the pink carpet tonight at Rackham Auditorium.

The center — a resource for students with questions about gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation — is commemorating its 40th anniversary this weekend with tailgates, campus tours and a special tribute concert tonight called “Broadway Comes Home” Pink Carpet Gala Event.

The event, directed by School of Music, Theatre & Dance Prof. Linda Goodrich, will showcase performances by Broadway talents such as David Burtka (“Gypsy”), Celia Keenan-Bolger (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”), Gavin Creel (“Hair”) and Laura Karpman, an Emmy Award-winning composer and MT&D alum, who is writing a piece for the show.

Creel, a two-time Tony nominee, ’98 MT&D alum and one of the concert producers, said he believes the importance of this event lies in making the Center more visible on campus.

“It’s important for people at this school to know about this Spectrum Center because I didn’t,” Creel told The Michigan Daily. “There are a lot of students who come from a lot of small towns, and they come to college and it’s scary to be here. … If (they’re) questioning sexual identity or sexual orientation or feeling ostracized for being gay, they have a safe haven here at the school.”

The Spectrum Center was the first office of its kind in the nation. The event tonight is commemorating its longstanding impact, according to Will Sherry, the center’s assistant director and a member of the event’s planning team. This weekend’s events are part of a year-long anniversary celebration that kicked off in January and coincided with the University hosting the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference for the first time in February.

Creel sees a connection between the LGBT and the Broadway communities, which he said is one of the reasons the performers are so willing to come back to celebrate the occasion.

“It’s not just gay people — the majority (of the Broadway community) is gay-friendly people — people who believe in equality and being treated with respect and dignity,” Creel said. “We have a loving, amazing, passionate, outspoken community and it seems like a perfect fit for an event like this.”

The event will be filled with talent: All the performers are graduates of the musical theatre department, which is well-respected nationally and around the world, according to Creel. The audience can expect not only great performances by the alumni, but also jazz ensemble pieces and an awards ceremony.

According to Spectrum Center director Jackie Simpson, Jim Toy, who co-founded the Spectrum Center, will be honored with an award, and former Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong will announce a new scholarship his family is starting for students — like Armstrong — who have been victims of bullying. Armstrong was targeted last year by former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, who claimed Armstrong was promoting a “radical homosexual agenda” through his position on MSA.

Sherry said the MT&D alumni volunteered to take on the task of putting together “Broadway Comes Home.”

“We have a deep love for Michigan and the Ann Arbor community and the Broadway community and gay community,” Creel said. “Other performers could have come in, but it’s about community and it’s about family. And we have that bond because we had those four years in the trenches learning how to do what we’re lucky enough to do on Broadway in New York.”

The performers are not only looking forward to reuniting with friends, taking the stage once again in Ann Arbor and touring the campus, but according to Creel, they are also eager to come back to eat French toast at Angelo’s.

The visiting alumni have a packed weekend. In addition to the concert, the Spectrum Center plans to hold a current student and alumni luncheon today, PRIDE afterparty tonight and “Rainbow” football tailgate tomorrow. The Spectrum Center is also premiering “8,” a play by Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), tomorrow night.


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