Broadway veteran Michael Longoria is teaming up with American Idol alumni Constantine Maroulis and Diana DeGarmo for a special night of music on Thursday supporting the nonprofit organization New Alternatives at the New York City club Hardware.
The benefit, co-hosted by Ashley Austin Morris, will raise money for New Alternatives — an organization that helps homeless LGBT youth become self-sufficient and transition out of the shelter system and into stable adult lives. The center — which provides services including case management, education, life-skills training, community-building recreational opportunities for self-expression and support services for HIV-positive youth — will be losing its donated space after August, and Longoria is hoping the benefit will raise money as well as awareness to keep the program afloat.
“It’s a very dangerous situation for young people, where the only reason they’re homeless is because their family has abandoned them,” he tells Billboard. “That’s the only reason they’re in there, and that’s what we need to get involved in — if we don’t look out for them, who will?”
Programs like New Alternatives are necessary, he said, to help homeless youth map out their futures while staying out of “harm’s way.” “This organization is specifically for these people that go to these other shelters and are harassed or physically hurt because people don’t accept young gay people,” he said.
The event — which kicks off at 9 p.m. — will also feature raffles for a Broadway records album package, a bottle of Pinot by Tituss wine autographed by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Tituss Burgess, as well as tickets to The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, Kinky Boots, Finding Neverland, Himself, Nora, Trip of Love and Feinstein’s/54 Below.
The evening will serve as a celebration of Pride Week and a reminder to the community to remain vigilant in the face of hate and bigotry in light of the tragic massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 53.
“What happened in Orlando is just a reminder that no matter how much love we have, other sources of evil are always going to resist, so let’s find a way to get serious in a positive way that shows our support for each other and our love for each other in public,” he said. “The people that need to be the most out and proud are the youth — the young people that are seeing all this violence are now scared to be themselves. … I feel like now more than ever is the time we need to show affection and we need to show who we are, because those people that were in that nightclub were people that were living their lives and showing their love for one another.”
Longoria — who said he has visited Pulse while on tour with various productions — was heartbroken to learn of a mother who was killed in the club while out dancing with her son. “To know that that mother was there in support of her son and loved her son and was accepting of her son and she lost her life in that tragic moment was just the worst news that I got, and ultimately, it’s just an attack on all Americans, humanity and our American way of life,” he said. “In a gay club, we are in a place where we can be ourselves and be free and not worry about any of that judgment and live our lives, and to have an attack on that freedom is an attack on every freedom in America, and that’s why all Americans need to be paying attention and getting involved in hopes of preventing this kind of thing from happening again in the future.”
Longoria — an original member of the cast of Jersey Boys in the role of Frankie Valli after a run in Hairspray — is currently supporting his new CD, Broadway Brick by Brick: a Latin-infused collection of Broadway classics including “Maria” (West Side Story), “The Sound of Music” (The Sound of Music) and “Music and the Mirror” (A Chorus Line). The record weaves in Longoria’s own personal story of his youth in Los Angeles leading to his success on The Great White Way.
“It became an autobiography of my life, my journey as a very young opera singer in a Mexican-American culture, a very heterosexual, Catholic culture, and finding myself in musical theater, in Broadway songs, and realizing that I was gay all the while,” he said. “Each song I chose tells a milestone of my journey, starting with my father, getting accepted to NYU and not having a means to get there, and getting the scholarship and getting on a plane in Los Angeles and leaving my family behind.”
In addition to Maroulis and DeGarmo, YouTube and The Marvelous Wonderettes star Christina Bianco, Daniel Reichard, Marty Thomas, Tori Scott, Ryan Raftery, Willito Rivera,
Maroulis said he was more than happy to get involved in the event when Longoria asked him to participate. “It’s something I’ve been hearing about for a while. A director friend of mine does a lot of work with these kids, and as a young father myself, I’ve seen even young artists get down on their luck all of a sudden after two, three, four years of not working,” he said. “You could be on the street real quick, especially if you don’t have family around, so I just can’t imagine ever being in that situation with my daughter and what I would do, so anything I can do to impact these children’s lives…
“It’s unfortunate that these organizations run into funding problems like this. This is a great outreach group, I mean, these children are future Broadway stars,” the American Idol season 4 alum continued. “They’re lovely kids, and Michael’s tremendous for putting this event together. Anything we can do to help out. He’s so busy on the road, it’s so lovely of him to do this and consider me. Every little bit helps, and if we can benefit a handful of these kids, it’ll be well worth it, and hopefully, going forward, we’ll be able to find funding to keep a program like this going.”
DeGarmo — who met Longoria shortly after he left Hairspray — said she was drawn to assist New Alternatives and its mission to help LGBT youth because New York City “is hard enough for anyone to come to … and sometimes it can be a hard city to get started in.”
“It’s a desperate time for them, and they need as much love as they can get,” she said.
DeGarmo — who lives in Nashville with her husband, fellow American Idol alum Ace Young — is currently appearing off-Broadway at the Kirk Theater in The Marvelous Wonderettes and will release a new single this summer. For the benefit, she is planning to sing a song of her own, “Live to Love.”
“It feels appropriate for what we are fighting for, which is love and compassion and empathy for all of us as a human race, and give a reminder that we are all in this together,” she said.
The benefit, she said, will be especially poignant as the entire LGBT community is mourning the tragedy in Orlando. “We are going to not let it bring us down,” she said. “I think we will find a way to give tribute to the Orlando victims and love louder.”’
Maroulis said he hopes the evening will “remember the lives lost and hopefully spread some love going forward, where maybe this won’t happen again.”
“There’s a bit of a shift in the air and in the community now with Pride coming up, and I imagine this night will be a beautiful night, but we’ll also talk about the friends that we lost,” he said. “I mean, I know people that knew people in the club. If you are gay and live in the south of Florida there, you probably knew someone or had some connection to someone that was in that club that night, and it’s just devastating.”
That said, Maroulis is looking forward to “bring the rock” or whatever he is asked to do at the show and added that a duet with fellow Idol DeGarmo would be “fun.” “I love Diana. I saw her the other day, and her and Ace are dear friends and [I’m] just so happy for the two of them. Truly two of the nicest people. And I’m going to go down there and see them in Nashville soon and get a hang in and maybe get some work in,” he said. “Ace is a great songwriter, and I know he’s working on a lot of fun stuff so … It’s funny, I don’t think this Idol family is going away anytime soon just because the show is off the air.
“I’m looking forward to Michael’s event, performing with friends, celebrating the lives of the beautiful people that we lost, and hopefully we can save some more lives with the outreach of doing with the young people, for sure,” he added.
A $10 donation is suggested to attend. Hardware is located at 697 10th Ave. in New York.