Montclair, NJ — Celebrated Grammy, SAG, and TONY Award nominee Norm Lewis was a guest at the White House last Wednesday, where he performed with Jessica Vosk and Lea Salonga before world leaders gathered for a state dinner in honor of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Mrs. Kim Keon Hee, hosted by United States President Joe Biden.
This Saturday, Lewis is headed to Montclair to perform for Vanguard Theater Company’s 2023 gala at the Woman’s Club of Upper Montclair! Lewis has a long career of challenging narratives: He was the first African-American to play the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, and Javert, in Les Misérables, and is a founding member of Black Theatre United, an organization that helps protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theater and communities across the country.
The theme of the Gala is Vanguardians: people at the forefront of new developments and ideas. Honorees are Broadway playwright, performer, composer, & lyricist Douglas Lyons; non-profit leader Lynne Toye, and community activists Madeline Gale & Reubena Spence. In addition to performances by Norm Lewis, EGOT winner Lin-Manuel Miranda has provided a special video introduction for the evening, which will include highlights from Vanguard’s season.
Vanguard Theater was recently awarded a grant through a joint and equal commitment from Michael Jordan and Jordan Brands to develop new works by creators from historically marginalized communities. Vanguard Theater was the only NJ non-profit, and one of only two theaters across the country, to receive a community development grant. At the Gala, Vanguard will announce the works to be featured in Vanguard’s New Works Festival, Illuminating New Voices, happening at the theater on May 20 – 21.
The silent auction includes house seats to Broadway’s hottest shows, with meet and greet opportunities afterwards with prior participants in Vanguard Theater’s Broadway Buddy Mentorship program. Those shows include Hamilton, Parade, Hadestown, Sweeney Todd, Shucked, Funny Girl, and more! Local celebrities have donated bespoke experiences in Montclair, including backyard bee tours, fly-fishing expeditions, beer brewing, food tastings, and more! The link for all things Vanguard Gala is bit.ly/gala23VTC . Online tickets are sold out, but some tickets are available by contacting email@example.com.
About the Honorees
Douglas Lyons is a multi-hyphenate artist originally from New Haven, CT. His Broadway acting credits include the Book of Mormon, the Original Cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and currently the Broadway revival of Parade. Douglas has also toured the country in Rent, Dreamgirls and Book of Mormon. As a writer, he earned a GLAAD nomination for his Broadway playwriting debut, Chicken and Biscuits, which is currently the 2nd most produced play in America. Douglas served as a writer on both seasons of Apple TV’s Emmy award winning series Fraggle Rock. As a composer-lyricist, his music and lyrics have been featured on Nickelodeon, BET Plus, Apple TV, CBS’s Sunday Morning Show, Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope Festival and Lincoln Center’s Broadway Songbook Series. His musicals include Polkadots (Off Broadway Alliance Winner Best Family Show, Atlantic Theater Company), Beau (Adirondack Theatre Festival), Breathe (Audible) and the world premiere of Five Points (Theater Latté Da.). With composing partner Ethan D. Pakchar, Douglas is a 2020 Jonathan Larson Grant finalist. In 2020 Douglas founded the Next Wave Initiative, a scholarship branch of The Directors Company dedicated to cultivating the next generation of Black theater makers.
Arts Not for Profit leader Lynne Toye, currently the Executive Director of the NJ Arts & Culture Renewal Fund at Princeton Area Community Foundation, has been supporting the arts and culture community in New Jersey for nearly 30 years. Lynne is a visionary Non-Profit Leader committed to cultural equity and a sustainable and thriving arts, culture, and history sector across the state. Prior to becoming the first leader of the New Jersey Arts & Culture Renewal Fund, she served as the Chief Administrative Officer at the Harlem School of the Arts in New York City, where she was on the senior leadership team. Her unique combination of entrepreneurial, financial, arts, for-profit and Higher Education experience offers a fresh perspective to mission-based organizations. She is inspired every day by the creativity and passion she sees in the arts and culture sector in New Jersey and is proud to contribute to its recovery and renewal.
Community Activists Madeline Gale & Reubena Spence have been at the forefront of every good cause and initiative in Montclair and Northern NJ. A dynamic married duo, one or both of them sit on the boards of the Montclair Civil Rights Commission, Out Montclair, Montclair Mutual Aid, NJPAC Advisory Council, the NAACP, the Montclair Black Coalition and so many more organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone in their community. Organizers of the first Newark LGBTQ Film Festival, they are fervent supporters of the arts, and the first two people to become membership subscribers to Vanguard Theater! Madeline Gale is a lifelong educator, special education teacher and consultant, and a reading literacy specialist. Reubena Spence is a graphic artist who has her own invitation company called Inkcurves.com.
Tony, Grammy, and SAG Award Nominee Norm Lewis is a prolific theater, film, and television actor who has starred in Broadway shows including Douglas Lyons’ Chicken and Biscuits, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Porgy and Bess, and Chicago. Onscreen, Lewis was most recently seen as Eddie in the 2020 film Da 5 Bloods and as Caiaphas in NBC’s live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. On TV, he has appeared in All My Children, Scandal, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Pose, among others. In stage-screen hybrid performances, he performed as Javert in the filmed concert production Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary in 2010 and assumed the role of Joe in Kern & Hammerstein’s Show Boat, a stage production at Lincoln Center filmed for PBS.
The 2023 Vanguard Theater Gala
Saturday, May 6, 2023 @ 6:30PM – 11PM
For Vanguard Gala info visit bit.ly/gala23VTC . Online tickets are sold out, but some tickets are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.