Broadway Singer-Actress Julia Murney to Perform at the Sheldon to Benefit Mustard Seed Theatre

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

You’ll be green with envy if you’re not in the audience at the Sheldon this coming Monday, March 3. Julia Murney—best known as green Elphaba in the musical “Wicked”—will perform her cabaret act to help raise funds for Mustard Seed Theatre’s Autism Education Project. Local audiences may know her from last summer’s “Shrek” at the Muny, where she played another green girl, Fiona. Murney will be accompanied on the piano as she performs a mix of material from show tunes to selections from her debut album, “I’m Not Waiting.”

Courtesy of Julia Murney

Courtesy of Mustard Seed Theatre

As part of Mustard Seed Theatre’s Autism Education Project, proceeds from the concert will go to a professionally filmed version of Artistic Director Deanna Jent’s play “Falling,” a dramatic and touching look at a family coping with an autistic son, inspired partly by Jent’s own family experience. The play will be shot by three cameras during the upcoming revival of the play featuring the original cast, April 11-27. Last year “Falling” was produced off-Broadway and garnered rave reviews. Murney played the role of Tami in New York, for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as Best Actress in a Drama.

After completing production of the filming, Jent will work with certified behavior analysts to develop background materials about autism, then hopes to pilot the material in some Fontbonne classes this fall and spring “to kind of ‘road test’ it, as it were,” Jent says. Following that, the program will be nicely packaged and made available to medical schools, universities, organizations and others.

Jent believes the program offers a unique perspective to autism education. “Falling” offers a realistic view of a family and the family dynamic where one person is the central focal point of the family and everything revolves around that person. “Anecdotally, I’ve heard teachers and medical professionals don’t know what happens behind the doors of these families,” Jent says. “Understanding how the family works with an autistic person is useful for them as they try to educate other people, but also as they try to understand how to best serve a person with a disability.”

Cabaret performances are nothing new for Ms. Murney. Interestingly, for years she was known as “the Broadway actress who never actually appeared on Broadway.” Her fame came mostly from singing on the Broadway charity circuit, so cabaret performances are right in her wheelhouse. Her title as the non-Broadway Broadway actress would come to an end in 2005, however, when she appeared in the short-lived musical “Lennon,” a serendipitous event considering Murney was named after Lennon’s song, “Julia.” Subsequently she appeared on Broadway in “Wicked.”

Jent has seen Murney do cabaret before. “I saw her perform a cabaret in New York and it was extremely entertaining,” Jent says. “I think it’s going to be a fabulous night.”

Julia Murney performs at the Sheldon Concert Hall Monday, March 3 beginning at 7pm. For tickets and information, visit the Mustard Seed Theatre website.

Follow Christopher Reilly on Twitter @ChristoReilly

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