In a benefit for Metro CareRing, a nonprofit organization that has helped feed and clothe more than 25,000 hungry people in Denver this year, a handful of Phantom cast members will perform Broadway show tunes and Christmas favorites sure to warm the cockles of the holiday heart. It's also the only area appearance of Phantom actors outside of the DCPA setting, and the first public fundraising event in the privately funded Metro CareRing's 25-year history.
"We've all been starving actors at one time or another," says Tregoney Shepherd, who plays the role of confidant in the play. And as fate would have it, Shepherd is a former singing mate of Metro CareRing's director Beth Taylor. The two used to sing together in small theater companies in Arizona; following their acting efforts in Flagstaff, Taylor went on to become head of Metro CareRing while Shepherd went on to Broadway.
When the Phantom tour was scheduled to stop in Denver, Shepherd got in touch with Taylor. "We often do benefits for AIDS organizations," Shepherd says. "I knew that Beth worked for this organization, and we thought it would be a good way for us to help them out."
Taylor jumped on the offer. "She asked me, 'What can I do?' and I said, 'You can raise some money for people who need to eat.'"
While Metro CareRing does provide other services, such as utilities assistance, clothing and donations of infant supplies, the majority of its efforts, Taylor says, go to filling empty stomachs. The bulk of the food is excess and unsellable product donated from area businesses. Safeway and King Soopers are two of Metro CareRing's biggest benefactors, along with Dobbs International, which provides catering services to United Airlines. Church and school food drives are another source of canned goods, staples and funds.
"We distributed $1.5 million in food items last year," Taylor says, "and we didn't pay for any of it. It was all donated by businesses and individuals, so this is very much a community project. Most of the people we serve are either on fixed incomes or they're the working poor. What we're seeing is that with the increasing cost of living and the affordable-housing crisis in Denver, the single mother, the person working minimum wage -- even the person making $10 an hour -- they are all coming up short. And that group is growing."
After performing tunes to help feed this demographic, the Phantom performers will host a meet-'n'-greet reception. Attendees will get a chance to pick up various items of Phantom memorabilia (some of it signed by the troupe) and chat with the actors about life in the limelight. "For people who are really into Broadway and the lifestyle," Taylor says, "it'll be a lot of fun to get to talk to people from behind the scenes." And though she's now a long way from Broadway, Taylor may steal a scene herself. "I think I'll do one or two songs with them," she says with a chuckle. "But after this, the only place you'll find me singing is at the piano bar at the Brown Palace."