Eight months in, the starry Concert for America rolls on.
The brainchild of radio host and comedy writer Seth Rudetsky (Broadway’s 2016 “Disaster!”) and his husband, James Wesley, the concert series (subtitled “Stand Up, Sing Out!”) promised a newly assembled benefit performance every month in a different U.S. city, packed with singing (and some non-singing) stars. The first one, held at Town Hall in Manhattan on Inauguration Day, presented itself as a kind of upbeat, show-business alternative to political events unfolding in Washington, with proceeds going to service organizations for children in need and other causes.
The luminaries who’ve joined the Concert for America bandwagon run a celebrated gamut, from Brian Stokes Mitchell and Barry Manilow, to Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Ben Vereen, Vanessa Williams, Megan Hilty, Betty Buckley and Chita Rivera. They’ve variously performed at three concerts in New York, and one each in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle. Now, for its eighth installment, the series visits Atlanta’s Ferst Center for the Arts on Aug. 28, with a celebrity lineup that includes Jessie Mueller (a Tony winner for “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”) and Grammy winner Melissa Manchester.
“For Seth Rudetsky, I will get on a plane and go to Atlanta,” says Randy Rainbow, another of the Atlanta performers and a New York-based actor and comedian renowned for his political and celebrity parody videos. Rainbow — yes, it is his real name — got major buzz in 2010 for a video he called “Randy Rainbow Is Dating Mel Gibson,” and in the aftermath of other funny videos and an expanding social-media following, he now has a healthy touring career himself.
In Atlanta, Rainbow says, he will perform some of his satirical political material, even though the concerts try to steer clear of mentions of the goings-on at the White House. One of the pieces is what he calls his “Covfefe Medley,” a reference to a nonsense word that appeared inscrutably in a President Trump tweet.
“As a performer, I used to host a night at a gay bar, and to get three people for an audience was a good night,” Rainbow says, laughing. “So now to go to these strange cities and have packed houses and get standing ovations, feels extremely new and exciting.” Of the benefit concert, he adds: “This is for multiple great causes. I’m thrilled to lend myself for that.”
The concerts so far have raised about $350,000 in ticket sales and sponsorships, according to Wesley. Rudetsky says the concerts’ loose format was intended to convey a sense that “I was in your living room,” and indeed, the live-streaming of the concerts has brought the shows into actual living rooms in real time. That casualness extends to the involvement of the stars, who donate their time and even help collect donations at the door. “This is really all hands on deck,” he says.
After Atlanta, the next Concert for America is scheduled for Oct. 16 in Hartford, Conn. And plans are in the works for a Washington concert after that, Rudetsky said. For more information, visit ConcertsForAmerica.com.