Perhaps the best description of the Three Phantoms in Concert Hurricane Matthew Benefit came from one of the organizers of the event at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium.
Photo by David Kuhn
Three Phantoms in concert, left to right, Craig Schulman, Ciaran Sheehan and Mark Jacoby.
“This is something that your God did,” she said.
The concert featured three Broadway actors who have played the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s megahit, Phantom of the Opera.
The one-night event netted more than $51,000 for N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM; also called Baptists on Mission).
“It was an incredible night,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director. “It was simply amazing to see how it all came together.”
Show N Tell Ministries, a small Christian non-profit, helped put the benefit together in about five weeks, aided by the North Carolina Theatre, the City of Raleigh and the Duke Energy Center. Local owners/operators of McDonald’s and Duke Energy provided corporate support so every dollar of ticket sales and all donations were donated to support flood relief efforts. The John William Pope Foundation provided a large grant to boost the donation.
“To me, it was a God thing,” said Tim Stevens, executive director of Show N Tell. “It reminded me of the Experiencing God model. Henry Blackaby said we should join God where He is working rather than try to think up our own ideas.”
Craig Schulman, one of Stevens’ friends and a Broadway star, called to check on him after the hurricane. A benefit was mentioned during the conversation. They originally hoped to do a benefit at the Garner Performing Arts Center, and Stevens set a goal of three or $4,000.
But when Schulman called back, he said he had two friends, two former Phantoms, who had agreed to come and do Schulman’s most famous production, Three Phantoms in Concert.
The three stars – Schulman, Ciaran Sheehan and Mark Jacoby – have had leading roles in shows such as Les Miserables, Showboat, Fiddler on the Roof, Jekyll and Hyde, Ragtime, Finnian’s Rainbow and many others, said they would donate their time and talent.
The North Carolina Theatre was contacted to get marketing help and CEO Lisa Grele Barrie said she would help, but that the show needed to be at Memorial Auditorium. She talked to Jim Lavery at the large Raleigh venue and within minutes the facility had waived most of its fees so the show could be moved.
“The entire process was like that,” Stevens said. “I’m thinking a one man show in a small venue, but suddenly we’re in one of the most prestigious venues in the state, and we are presenting an incredible show with three Phantoms and a band. I’m thinking less than $5,000 and suddenly we’re looking at tens of thousands.”
The first corporate sponsorship came about from a casual conversation while in an elementary school carpool line.
Advertising help, graphic design and printing soon was volunteered.
“It was one of the more remarkable things that I have ever seen,” Stevens said. “Every time there was a hurdle, an answer came quickly.”
The group decided to have volunteers who have worked in disaster relief following Hurricane Matthew be ushers to save money. But the auditorium’s ushering staff volunteered so the yellow-shirted relief workers were free to welcome the crowd and talk about relief efforts.
At intermission, after a brief talk by McDonald’s Doris Huebner, those same relief volunteers collected almost $6,000 in additional donations. Leftover concert posters were put on a table with a bucket labeled, “Make a donation. Take a poster.” An additional $600 was donated.
“I was thinking we might pick up a couple of hundred dollars at intermission. I was stunned,” Stevens said.
Brunson said the event would have been successful even if much less money had been collected.
“We got to tell our story,” Brunson said. “We had some people here who knew nothing about N.C. Baptists and missions. But they left knowing what we do.”
The event was so successful that organizers are looking at possible events in other parts of the state. The Phantoms are willing to come for another benefit.
But there will be a lot of prayers before that decision is made.
“We don’t want to rush ahead,” Stevens said. “We tried to have this same concert in Wilmington the day after the Raleigh concert, and it just didn’t work. We had to cancel it. All the things that came together in Raleigh never came together in Wilmington.
“The guys really want to come back to North Carolina and do another benefit. Their hearts have been touched by the need and the good works that are being done. The big thing right now, though, is be thankful for what God has done.”