Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project hosts “Love is the Cure” concert to raise money for PWAs

By : Steve Blanchard
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St. Petersburg – Fifteen talented musical performers will donate their time and talents to the Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project’s newest fundraiser on April 27. The show, Love is the Cure, is a showcase of love songs from the musical theater stage.

SATP creator Garry Breul has made it his life’s work to raise money for people suffering with HIV and AIDS, and he remains committed to raising money that goes directly to those individuals, not organizations.

“Years ago we did Divas in Concert—Divas do Garland, Divas do Streisand, etc.,” Breul explains. “It’s concertized. I read Elton John’s book, Love is the Cure, and that’s where I got this idea and this title. He talks about how he’s seen everything from the Ryan White years to today. The Elton John Foundation does amazing work all over the world and I wanted to bring that to people’s attention.”

Each performer will sing at least one song from a musical theater production. Performers are both local and national—but all have a tie to St. Petersburg and, especially, Breul.

“We do this because we love Garry,” explains Jorge Acosta, who lives in New York but is in Tampa Bay as part of the cast of American Stage in the Park’s In the Heights. “I’ve done a number of these and they are always different—it’s never the same material. This one is a concert about love songs.”

Initially, a concert of love songs may sound low key—if not depressing, but Breul guarantees that’s not what the audience will get when the concert happens at freeFall Theater in St. Petersburg at 7:30 p.m. on April 27.

“There are all types of songs in this,” Breul explains. “We have songs ranging from happy to sad and it all builds up to ‘Seasons of Love’ from RENT.”

Acosta says that while the reason behind the concert is a noble one, it’s also about the music.

“This gives people a chance to hear performers do things they may not normally do,” Acosta says. “It’s pulled out of the narrative and just gives talented people with amazing voices a chance to show what they can do.”

Acosta plans to sing two songs in the concert—’What More Can I Say’ from Falsettoland and Dos Gardnias by Ibrahim Ferrer.

The evening will be emceed by Watermark Award for Variety and Excellence winner Matthew McGee, who is a staple at almost every SATP show. McGee says he is excited to take part in the experience and may offer up a musical number of two himself.

“I’ll be hosting and introducing acts,” McGee says, and I may do something from Mame—I’m trying to get the right arrangement.”

McGee plays the iconic title character in a production of Mame this summer at freeFall theater.

“I want to sing ‘If He Walked Into My Life,'” McGee says. “I think it can work with the evening.”

Like Acosta, McGee is passionate about the reason behind the concert, but is committed to helping the cause started by his friend Garry Breul.

“I have to say, Garry is tireless,” McGee said. “Even when facing his own health issues, he’s still always working for people, working to help raise awareness.”

In the spring of 2014, Breul learned he had cancer, and he has been battling it ever since.

“A very interesting thing has happened—we don’t all see HIV as a death sentence anymore. There’s a bit of complacency,” McGee says. “It’s a great thing to have Garry around to remind people about these things, about the stuff people are sitll dealing with today. It’s very smart to continue to call attention to the struggle.”

And struggle is the exact same word Breul uses to describe the people with HIV/AIDS he hopes to help.

“Someone has to fight for the little guy,” Breul says. “People can live with HIV and have long, wonderful lives. They can own boats, homes, have families. But there are still those who truly struggle—financially, emotionally. Those are the people who need our help and the reason behind doing things like this concert.”

Breul makes it clear that the money raised by SATP events like this is to go directly to individuals who need it—not an organization’s overhead. That’s why Breul says he partners with Metro Wellness and Community Centers.

“I tell them every time that I know the money will go directly to those who need it, not to the mortgage or to a salary,” Breul says.

Tickets are $20 for the concert, and Acosta is confident that those who attend will be rewarded with amazing talent and an evening of fun.

“This is by no means a downer,” Acosta says. “It’s a night to hear some incredible singing by some amazingly remarkable people. Yes, we’re here to raise money for a noble cause, but it’s a night of entertainment.”

Breul is thankful to freeFall theater for donating the space for the concert and lauds Artistic Director Eric Davis for his continuing support of SATP.

McGee, who is the Community Outreach Director for freeFall, says events like this not only help a praiseworthy cause, but boosts the theater community as a whole.

“We feel that we have this great complex here and a lot of the time it’s good for us to lend some space to other non-profits,” McGee says. “It brings people to the theater who may not go regularly. It creates awareness for theater and plays and people who may not have been here. Of course we hope they enjoy themselves and come back. There are a lot of things happening at freeFall.”

Love is the Cure will be held in the complex’s 275 seat theater, which is better set up for a concert than its main stage.

Both Acosta and McGee admit that while they are donating their time for the concert, they selfishly look forward to reconnecting with friends in the theater world that they rarely get to see.

“We live in this theater community that’s very close knit, but sometimes we’re not all together,” McGee says. “Garry has a knack of pulling us together and it’s a nice, fun reunion—plus you have all that talent.”

More Info:

WHAT: Love is the Cure Concert

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., April 27

WHERE: FreeFall Theatre, St. Petersburg

TICKETS: $20 at FreeFallTheatre.com

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