Spotlight on Broadway

Some of Broadway's brightest stars will shine on the Alex Theatre stage Monday in "Broadway Tonight!"

Eric McCormack of TV's "Will & Grace" and Broadway's "Music Man," and Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty of "Wicked" are among those who will be singing and dancing, said Barbara Epstein, producer and director.

"For 'Broadway Tonight,' you are seeing all of them in one night in a fabulous show," Epstein said.

The event will raise funds for weSPARK Cancer Support Center in Sherman Oaks, founded by actress Wendie Jo Sperber. Sperber died five years ago after a battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 1997 at age 37.

"I've done the show several years, and I've been involved with the organization since the beginning, and weSPARK is going into its 10th year," Epstein said.

Sperber was determined to open a support center that had more of a homelike setting, unlike the stark hospitals and clinics she had encountered. The independently run center opened in 2001. All services are free to cancer patients and their families.

SPARK stands for Support, Prevention, Acceptance, Recovery and Knowledge, said Nancy Allen, program director.

"The 'we' means we do everything here," she added. "We have clinical support groups for cancer patients, caregivers and children and teens whose parents have cancer or have lost a parent to cancer."

The newest addition to the program is Young Adults of Cancer, Allen said.

"It represents a large number of patients with cancer or in post treatment who are from ages 15 through 39," she said.

They have different issues they are dealing with, like dating, living with a cancer diagnosis, recurrence and child bearing.

"These are difficult life issues made even more difficult by having cancer," Allen said.

Marla Zack, 46, of Burbank, started coming to the support center after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in spring 2008, she said.

"They offer yoga, tai chi, chi gong, creative writing, jewelry making and guided imagery — all these things that connect with the mind, body and spirit," Zack said. "The beauty of all of these programs is that they are free for the guest."

It made a tremendous difference in her healing and recovery, she said.

"There is this palpable energy, and it hits you the minute you walk through the door," Zack said.

Free programs at weSPARK are made possible through fundraisers like the "Broadway Tonight!" show, Allen said.

"We raise funds to provide services for cancer patients and anyone whose life is being threatened by cancer," she said.

Sperber was an actress and mother of two small children. She loved music and dance, and she loved to perform, Allen said.

"We lost her in November 2005, and it's the fifth anniversary of her passing," she said. "This show is a nice way to remember her and the favorite fundraiser that we do here. It's about a celebration. It's all things wonderful that she loved to see and perform on the stage."

Epstein was associate producer of the Broadway performances of "Rent" and "Avenue Q" and has produced and directed more than 50 musicals, plays, and theme park stunt and cruise ship shows.

For the benefit show at the Alex, performers will take turns onstage backed by a seven-piece band. A six-person ensemble will be involved if it's called for, she said.

McCormack will sing "I Got Life" from "Hair."

"He's fabulous!" Epstein said. "The best to work with — a consummate pro."

McCormack said he's done the show on and off for several years. He met Sperber when she was a guest star on "Will and Grace."

"Shortly after that, she called me and said she had cancer and started the organization," he said.

A lot of the organizations he and his wife give time to concentrate on research, which is important, he said.

"But you also need to take care of the people who have it and are living with it, and their families," he said.



What: "Broadway Tonight"

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

Tickets: $25 to $250

Contact: (818) 243-2539

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