Drama students past and present shared the stage Monday night for a benefit concert featuring stars and survivors of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
"From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert for Parkland, USA" featured a star-studded roster of Broadway and television entertainers, including "Glee" actor Matthew Morrison, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" star Rachel Bloom and award-winning recording artist Deborah Cox.
In a concert at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, the entertainers performed with local arts groups, including the Student Choir of Broward, Dance Theatre of Broward and members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's drama club, Shine.
Despite the circumstances that brought them together, Bloom said the chemistry among the performers was instant. After all, the celebrity performers were once theater kids, she said.
"Tonight is about them and I'm happy to be here and support them. The kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas are doing what the arts are supposed to do -- they are channeling their intense feelings and rage and thoughts into their art, which is a way to communicate with people and make the world better," Bloom said in an interview before the show.
"This is an example of why theater and the arts in schools is so important," she said. "It makes me proud to be a fellow theater kid seeing what all these people are doing with theater and music."
Working with the teen performers made the February 14 shooting feel all the more real, Broadway performer Donna Lynne Champlin said. But in the frenzied excitement of rehearsals, it was easy to momentarily forget why they were there, the "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" actress said.
"We're sort of looking at our younger selves and going, 'When we were your age we were writing songs about rainy days and broken hearts, and here you are writing songs about losing numerous friends.' I think they're extraordinary" she said. "I can't even imagine what their reality is like."
The concert was the culmination of weeks of intense preparation, Stoneman Douglas junior Sawyer Garrity said before the concert. But she never forgot what brought everyone together.
"There's been some really awesome moments because of this, but it's hard to feel excited or happy about them because you realize what happened and why we're getting all these opportunities," she said.
With the help of singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik, she and another student composed a song based on a poem written by shooting victim Alex Schachter. His parents asked them to write the song after their first performance at a town hall after the shooting, she said.
"This song is for him. He's going to live on through this song and through this poem he wrote," she said.
"In the end, everything that we're doing is for them and everything that we're doing is so that they'll be remembered -- all the 17, and even the ones who were injured and anyone hurt by gun violence."