YoungArts’ Star-Studded Evening

Andrew Rannells sang "Wicked Little Town" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and "Cry For Me" from Jersey Boys.

Yesterday was the National YoungArts Foundation’s second annual YoungArts Awareness Day. Designed to encourage emerging artists to pursue careers in the arts, the day was capped off with a cabaret performance at NYC arts venue Feinstein’s/54 Below, Broadway's Supper Club. As I am a relatively new New York arts-goer, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into as I made my way to the Manhattan venue. To my embarrassment, I actually got confused about which door was the entrance and ended up taking the service elevator into the club. So much for sophistication!

As I walked into the swanky room, my excitement increased. Headlining the show were five YoungArts alumni: singer-songwriter Grace Weber, pianist and producer Julian Waterfall Pollack, On the Town star and recent Dance Magazine cover Tony Yazbeck, Hamilton star Alysha Deslorieux and HBO “Girls” star Andrew Rannells. Hosted by “The Knick” actress Zuzanna Szadkowski, the evening promised to be spectacular.

And it was! Weber kicked off the show with “Oil and Gold”—a heartbreaking original song about an oil spill. Three Juilliard dancers improvised during Pollack’s soulful rendition of “Solitude” by Duke Ellington. Yazbeck delivered a face-melting rendition of “Infinite Joy” by William Finn, proving that he has the singing chops to fill a space three times the size of 54 Below. Deslorieux’s “Breath” from The Heights actually brought audience members to tears. Last but certainly not least, Rannells’ “Cry For Me” from Jersey Boys sent audience members (including myself) off into the night with goofy smiles on their faces.

The sheer talent and passion of the performers highlighted the truly inspirational work that YoungArts does. Established in 1981, it supports the next generation of artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts. Each year 800 YoungArts winners are selected out of 11,000 applicants, ages 15 to 18. Winners receive mentorship from world-renowned artists, scholarships and opportunities to launch their careers. Alumni include: Desmond Richardson, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington and The Music Center president and CEO Rachel Moore. Dance master artists have included: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones, Debbie Allen and Jacques d’Amboise.

Tony Yazbeck performed "Something's Coming" from West Side Story and "Infinite Joy" by William Finn.

Photos courtesy of: Monica Schipper/Getty Images North America

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