North Texas’ theater community has endured summer heat recording a Christmas album featuring top talent in a queer-led fundraiser
With Pride barely upon us, most people haven’t even begun thinking about Christmas. So imagine what kind of resolve it takes to devote your entire summer to holiday cheer.
Five of North Texas’ most celebrated actors — joined by their many talented friends — have done just that, recording a benefit album of festival songs called Holidazzle.
Patty Breckenridge and her partner, Carrie Hein, came up with the idea with their friends Marisa Diotalevi, Bob Hess and Doug Miller — all powerhouses in the Dallas theater community — last December. By May, they were already well on their way to making it happen.
"Carrie and I were talking about it, and I knew the Dallas theater community would love to give back," says Breckenridge, who conceived of the CD as a fundraiser. The charity the group selected, Jonathan’s Place, is a shelter for abused children.
"We knew from the beginning we wanted it to be a children’s charity of some sort," adds Diotalevi, who was familiar with Jonathan’s Place through a relative.
With the summer slipping away, production is coming to a close. The final number will be recorded this week, and the plan is for the CDs — 1,000 will be produced in the initial pressing — to be offered for sale in the lobbies of local theaters, as well as on the group’s Web site (also donated by a member of the theater community).
Getting the CD off the ground went smoother than expected in some ways, more difficult in others. Everyone was amazed how quickly members of the theater community jumped on to volunteer their talents. The CD contains 40 featured singers, and a recent rehearsal for the "We Are the World" number had more than 80 singers show up. And all of them — as well as the musicians — are working for free.
But there have been snags, mostly related to getting their group established as a non-profit — "They make it so hard to do good," Diotalevi says about the tax code. And only one of the songs is in the public domain ("O Holy Night," sung by Gary Floyd), meaning royalties must be paid.
But all the effort yields such remarkable results as Jenny Thurman singing a duet with herself — as Patsy Cline and Judy Garland (the latter eerily dead-on), Cedric Neal and Liz Mikel pairing up and Miller and Diotalevi singing "Baby, It’s Cold Outside").
So, was it worth all the effort?
"Ask me when it’s over," Diotalevi says. Right now, she’s looking to put on a Santa hat — it helps keep her in the Christmas spirit.
Visit DFWActorsGive Back.org to donate or pre-order a CD. $15.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.