Broadway veterans set for arts school fundraising gala in Naperville

  • Arlington Heights native and Broadway veteran Karen Mason ("Sunset Blvd.," "Mamma Mia!") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

    Arlington Heights native and Broadway veteran Karen Mason ("Sunset Blvd.," "Mamma Mia!") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

  • Broadway veteran Cathy Rigby, pictured here as "Peter Pan" in a 2013 national tour, is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

    Broadway veteran Cathy Rigby, pictured here as "Peter Pan" in a 2013 national tour, is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville. Courtesy of Issac James

  • Broadway veteran Zonya Love ("The Color Purple") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

    Broadway veteran Zonya Love ("The Color Purple") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

  • Broadway veteran Julia Murney ("Wicked") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

    Broadway veteran Julia Murney ("Wicked") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

  • Joliet native and Broadway veteran Chadae Nichol ("Motown the Musical") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

    Joliet native and Broadway veteran Chadae Nichol ("Motown the Musical") is one of the stars set for a fundraising gala to support a proposed Academy of the Arts in Naperville.

 
 
Updated 1/7/2022 5:45 PM

Broadway veterans have been recruited for a February gala concert and fundraiser in Naperville to support a new independent school for the performing arts that has grand ambitions in Chicago's Western suburbs.

The announced stars for "A Night of Broadway" include Arlington Heights native Karen Mason ("Sunset Blvd.," "Mamma Mia!"), Cathy Rigby ("Peter Pan") and Zonya Love ("The Color Purple").

 

The concert is set for 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville.

The concert benefits the Academy of the Arts, which is aiming to become an academic and art school for grades 6 through 12 by the 2025-26 school year. The independent nonprofit school would offer the core academic areas of math, science and languages along with a focus on visual and performing arts programs.

"We're looking to open somewhere in Naperville," said Dylan Ladd, co-founder of the Academy of the Arts. "We're still identifying a site and working on our initial fundraising goals, so that we can afford to eventually open a performing arts center. That's the dream."

To kick-start that dream, Ladd said many Academy of the Arts board members and performers, including Stephen Wallem, used friendships and connections to attract stars such as Karen Mason for the gala concert.

"We wanted the community to see not only are these the performers, but the people we are going to bring to the school to be teaching -- whether it's a master class or something more regular," Ladd said. "People with established arts careers."

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Other gala performers include Julia Murney ("Wicked"), Joliet native Chadae Nichol ("Motown the Musical") and Meecah (currently on tour with "Hamilton"). Gala tickets are $100 and include a cocktail hour, concert, silent auction and a reception.

Ladd said the Academy of the Arts has an initial fundraising goal of $2 million so that it can start offering arts classes in leased spaces hopefully by the fall of 2023. Much more money will be needed for the physical school/performing arts complex to house the Academy of the Arts.

For more information, visit illinoisartsacademy.org/gala.

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