By Deb Silverthorn
Need a dose of musical theater? Thanks to a 16-year-old from Dallas, you can enjoy “Broadway Potluck,” an online concert with at-home performances by talented singers from across the country.
“I love being creative and took that passion to create a mitzvah opportunity that is showcasing artists and helping others,” said Kayla Rutner, a graduate of Akiba Academy and a junior at Greenhill School who is the daughter of Marilyn and Michael and sister of Sarina. “‘Broadway Potluck’ is bigger than I could have imagined but exactly what was in my heart.”
When Kayla’s summer plans disappeared, she was determined to bring together young voices from around the country. . With the support and talents of family friend Todd Shotz, the program realizes her dreams while also helping others with donations benefiting the nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It is available to watch on YouTube.
“Kayla has an amazing voice and spirit and I was happy to help,” said Shotz, a longtime Broadway show manager and entertainment producer. He is also the founder and executive director of Hebrew Helpers, whose mentors provide individualized Jewish education.
His friendship with the Rutners dates to when he and Kayla’s dad sang in The Penn Glee Club. “‘Broadway Potluck’ is a labor of love,” he added.
“Broadway Potluck,” with more than 2,300 views and nearly $9,500 raised in the 36 hours after its premiere, includes performances by Zoe Blackman, Skylar Crown, Sophia Grey Delucci, Kacie Endsley, Bre Furman, Jake Horlitz, Aldana Pavicich, Annabel Poinsette and Kayla Rutner. It was edited by Kate Franklin of Dallas, a 2020 Greenhill graduate and freshman at the University of Southern California.
“Both Kayla and Kate have been in productions that present humanity and take creativity to care about others. ‘Broadway Potluck’ is absolutely practice in play,” said Valerie Hauss-Smith, Greenhill School Director director of Theatre. “Talent is a gift from God; what you do with it is your gift back. It’s wonderful watching these two grow in their artistry, making a difference for others.”
Broadway stars Liz Callaway, Kevin Chamberlin, Joanna Gleason, Ann Harada, Adam Pascal, Tonya Pinkins, Jonah Platt, Donna Vivino and Rachel York shared bravos to the participants, with an introduction and farewell message by Joel Grey.
“Artists have an obligation to bring others along: to sing and speak for those who can’t, to make them a part of something,” said Gleason, who won a Best Actress Tony Award for her role as the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods.”
“Artistry is in our bones and ‘Broadway Potluck’ is exactly that. My hat is off to Kayla for this brilliant expression of understanding that responsibility and I applaud all of the participants’ diligence to continue working and performing their craft during this time,” she added.
Kayla’s family, members of Congregation Shaare Tefilla, where Michael serves as lay chazzan, stems from generations of singers. Her grandfather Murray Rutner was also a service leader and her great-grandmother, Shoshana Rutner, was a singer and pianist, the latter two of blessed memory.
“When my dad and I did ‘Sound of Music’ at the Aaron Family JCC, I knew acting was what I wanted to do,” said Kayla. “I enjoy singing, dancing, playing piano, acting and, now, producing. I love it all.”
Kate, the daughter of Audrey and Rick and sister of Nick, grew up at Temple Emanu-El. At USC, she’s majoring in film and television production.
“When Kayla brought me this program, I was so excited, and it was a great experience. We really put our heart and souls into it,” said Kate, who edited the complete program from her laptop, this her first professional note on her resume as an editor. “Editing is my opportunity to help tell and shape stories and ‘Broadway Potluck’ allowed us to show what we we can can do, in a time of ‘can’t.’”
Donations to “Broadway Potluck” support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, providing meals, medication and emergency assistance to millions affected by life-threatening illnesses. Broadway Cares is also the single largest financial supporter of The Actors Fund, providing a safety net of services for those on stage, behind the camera or behind the scenes.
“I still have this faith in the truth of my dreams,” sings Kayla, the production’s closing entertainer. The lyrics from her selection, “Anastasia,” are a reminder to always remain hopeful. “In my dreams it’s all real and my heart has so much to reveal. And my dreams seem to say don’t be afraid to go on, don’t give up hope come what may.”
For more information and to submit an audition for a planned spring concert, visit broadwaypotluck.com.