William Way to host musical cabaret fundraiser in support of reconstruction campaign

Headshot of Tom Wilson Weinberg over a transparent pride flag background
Tom Wilson Weinberg (Background Photo: Adobe Stock)

To celebrate music and community, the William Way LGBT Community Center will host a musical cabaret fundraiser with proceeds going toward the center’s Build the Way campaign, a redevelopment project that will expand the center’s physical space and thus its services.

The event, entitled “Covers and Undercovers,” will be presented by local singer/songwriter Tom Wilson Weinberg and collaborating musicians on Friday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m., both in the Mark Segal Ballroom at William Way.

“Tom Wilson Weinberg himself is a community treasure,” said Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way. “We’re honored to have him do this fundraiser to support our Capital Campaign to create a performing space for generations of artists to come.” 

“It’s a night of stars who will really have the audience energized and excited for the next steps for William Way,” Bartlett added. 

In terms of repertoire, the “Covers Undercovers” group plans to perform some songs that Weinberg wrote in the 1970s and 1980s, covers of show tune-esque songs, and “undercovers,” which are versions of songs with the music kept intact, but with new lyrics. 

“I do it with respect to the original song, but also my lyrics make it a better song,” Weinberg said. “Some of these songs are famous songs, and I just want to either queer them a little bit, or make a different statement. That’s what undercover means.”

For “Covers and Undercovers,” Weinberg will be joined by actor, singer, director and playwright Mr Maryruth Stine, actor Aaron Bell, vocalist, pianist and composer V. Shayne Frederick, John Whyte, a “connoisseur, critic and fan” of Weinberg’s music, according to a press release, and Broadway-style singer Janet Wright. They have all previously performed with Weinberg at William Way.

Weinberg has been performing cabaret shows at William Way for years, and co-founded the local LGBTQ+ bookstore Giovanni’s Room. He has released five records of songs in the musical theater vein, some of which include “All-American Boy,” “Ten Percent Revue” and “Get Used to It.” His short musical “Sixty Years with Bruhs and Gean” was commissioned by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and later performed at Carnegie Hall. His musical “Sunrise at Hyde Park,” which tells the story of the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, was staged in Philadelphia and New York.

“My goal in a song is to present some kind of a story, and to be something that folks can relate to,” Weinberg said. “Sometimes, seriousness and comedy end up in the same song. From the beginning of my songwriting, I wanted to make fun of the world around us and make fun of us. Even in the early days of queer activism, I would poke fun at our community as well.”  

Some of Weinberg’s originals that he wrote decades ago, when fewer LGBTQ+ rights existed, were rife with political messages. Now, some 40 years later, some of those political messages are still relevant, considering the resurgence of homophobia and transphobia in the U.S.  

“I just didn’t think we’d be moved back to where we were 40 years ago when I was writing those first albums and playing in coffee houses,” Weinberg said. “I moved on to musical theater, and now I’m back with anger and criticism.”

The community center has long been a site for cabaret and a variety of artistic performances, so the tradition continues with this unique show. 

“Cabaret to me is very special because I like to be in a space where the audience comes to hear the songs,” Weinberg said. “The doors are closed. Nobody’s running back and forth to get another drink. It’s just an intimate space where the audience sits with us and hears the words and the music. We’re doing it because we love the community center.

Covers and Undercovers: A William Way Fundraiser will be held Friday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m., both in the Mark Segal Ballroom at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. For tickets and information, visit coversandundercovers.eventbrite.com.

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