NYC cabaret stars to shine for Unity Center
By KEITH LORIA
Since 1991, the Unity Center for Practical Spirituality has been housed on Main Street above the McMahon Ford Dealership in Norwalk, but the church has had difficulty letting people know it was there.
The Rev. Shawn Moninger, the founding president of The Unity Church of New York in New York City and the church’s minister, wanted to find a way to change that, and an idea started percolating in his head last summer.
“We had a retreat last summer with a lot of our members — many of them celebrities — and on the last day we put on a cabaret show and I thought it was one of the best shows I had ever seen,” Moninger said. “I thought, ‘we can reach the community this way because this is what we do best.'”
With those same celebrities on hand, the church will host its first-ever musical extravaganza, “Hear Our Song,” to be held Friday, April 8, at Norwalk Concert Hall.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” said the event’s producer (and performer) Christina Connors. “There are lots of local businesses involved and we wanted to make this a big Norwalk event, and what better way to do that then through something fun with music.”
The event will include a who’s who of Broadway and cabaret performers, including Lucie Arnaz, blues singer Lina Koutrakos and Disney composer David Friedman. Also on the bill is Norwalk’s own Broadway star Raissa Katona-Bennett.
“Being part of Unity has changed my whole life by giving me access . . .
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to internal joy and peace and a sense of safety and possibility no matter what’s going on,” said Friedman, a Broadway composing veteran of eight shows. “I am participating in this concert not only to let the entire community know that this wonderful resource is available to everyone, but to give people a taste of the joy and the talent that exists within the Unity community.”
Unity music director Scott Coulter, well known on the NYC cabaret circuit, will join Connors as co-host for the evening. For his part, Moninger will hit the stage with a church favorite, “The Cookie Song,” that he wrote and sings at the retreat.
“We have a lot of talent in our spiritual community and we really wanted to share that, as well as our philosophy for positive living, with a wider audience,” said Moninger. “It’s not a religious evening but it’s certainly upbeat.”
“Hear our Songs” line-up will feature 16 performers and include solos, group numbers, duets and a finale with all performers. There will also be one spoken-word act as Laurence Luckinbill, who is known for a series of critically praised one-man shows, will present his story of Clarence Darrow.
“We are transforming Norwalk Concert Hall into a Broadway stage and I don’t think Norwalk has ever experienced anything like what we are doing,” Connors said. “Anyone who loves any type of music and incredibly talented performers will love this. It’s going to be extraordinarily entertaining.”
There will also be a silent auction that will include items . . .
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such as dining certificates, trips and a Frank Gifford-autographed football.
A portion of the event’s proceeds will go to support Norwalk Hospital’s Whittingham Cancer Center and The Domestic Violence Center.
Tickets are $25, or $100 for premium seating, which includes a meet-and-greet reception after the show. For more information visit www.unitycenterps.org or call (203) 866-7004
“How often do you get to see this type of talent under one roof at this price?” Moninger said. “The whole evening is accessible to adults and children and these performers and the material they do send a great message and offer great entertainment.”
The Center holds a Sunday Celebration service as well as a wide variety of daytime and evening workshops and classes throughout the week.
“Unity itself is a spiritual philosophy for positive living,” Moninger said. “We are not trying to convince anyone of anything except that life can truly be enjoyed and appreciated in some way or another no matter what’s going on.”