AIDS is a scary, saddening illness that affects more than 40 million people worldwide. It has killed more than 25 million people in the years since the epidemic started in the ’80s.
There is no cure for AIDS, but there is hope for those who wish to help fight the disease. For the fifth year running, students in the Elon University Department of Performing Arts have put together Elon Cares, a cabaret-style benefit concert with funds going to the larger organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
“Basically, they put together cabarets and fundraisers to raise money for AIDS,” said junior Katie Chung, a music theatre major and Elon Cares director. “They also donate money to other organizations across the country.”
In the years that Elon has participated, Elon Cares has raised more than $7,000 for AIDS research.
Chung said the Elon organization has been in direct contact with Broadway Cares, which is based out of New York City. The Elon concert has previously shared the Broadway Cares name, but was encouraged to make the event unique to the campus.
Elon Cares is entirely student-run, with Chung directing, senior John Yee producing and junior Emilie Renier choreographing. But it’s not just for performing arts majors. Elon Cares may also become a student organization outside of the annual concert and will be open to students across campus.
“It’s not a department thing,” Chung said. “We would love to have a science major belting on stage. We just want to get everyone involved.”
Elon Cares’s 2011 theme was “Keep Holding On,” the title of an Avril Lavigne song performed at the end of the concert.
“We wanted to look at the positive of the situation. A lot of times we feel like it’s easy to get down when thinking about (AIDS),” Chung said.
AIDS is a serious issue, but the Elon Cares cast and crew took a lighthearted approach to raising funds.
“(We wanted to) just make it a positive evening and to raise money in that sort of light as opposed to a big downer of an evening,” said Adam Kaplan, a junior music theatre major.
From popular songs like “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys to tunes from “Shrek the Musical” to a tap number straight from “Singin’ in the Rain,” Elon Cares had an element for everyone. Not to mention the spot-on cross-dressing in the number “Big Spender” from the musical “Sweet Charity.”
The performance was in Yeager Recital Hall on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Lines stretched through the Center for the Arts, and some people arrived up to an hour early to secure good seats. The smaller space, even more so with around 40 cast members, could have been limiting to the scale of a Broadway cabaret, but it worked out in the end.
“I think the nature of this concert (is) really beneficial to be in Yeager,” Chung said. “It keeps it a really intimate setting.”
On a practical note, the acoustics in Yeager make an ensemble of 40 sound like 100 and a soloist so powerful there’s no need for a microphone.
“You can never sing on a better stage than Yeager Recital Hall,” said Katie Zanca, a junior music theatre major.
The closeness also helped the audience get into the music and the message of hope.
“In such an intimate space, it’s really nice to open up as a person to those people in the audience,” said Amy NcNabb, a junior acting major. “They’re close and you can make eye contact with them and they’re there with you. You decide those people are coming with you for that journey.”