Jewish Family Service (JFS) brought Broadway to Dallas on April 20 at the Dallas Majestic Theater with Broadway Legends Sandra Joseph and Ron Bohmer as well as a surprise guest – Bohmer’s daughter, Austen Danielle Bohmer, who recently made her Broadway debut. The evening, titled Just for Show, featured the Broadway stars in a “A Look Behind the Curtain: Songs and Stories from Broadway” and raised critical funding to support Jewish Family Service programs and services.
Joseph and Bohmer met and fell in love while playing Christine Daaé and the Phantom in Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera and have been married for more than 20 years. Joseph holds the record as the longest-running leading lady, spanning 10 years and 1,500 performances, in the longest-running Broadway show of all time, 35 years. Joseph is also the bestselling author of Unmasking What Matters: 10 Life Lessons from 10 Years on Broadway, and a keynote speaker. Bohmer has starred in more than a dozen Broadway productions in a career spanning 30 years on Broadway stages and with symphony orchestras worldwide. The couple resides in San Diego but flew straight to Dallas from New York City, where they attended the final curtain call of The Phantom of the Opera at NYC’s Majestic Theater, after its 35-year run on Broadway before their performance at Dallas’ theater of the same name. In fact, Joseph wore the same gold sequined dress she donned on the red carpet for the NYC extravaganza, joking to the JFS audience, “I wanted to try it out first there and make sure it would be good for Dallas!”
More than 750 attendees entered the Dallas Majestic to a red carpet, where they were interviewed by Entertainment Reporter Danielle Hawthorne about their excitement for the evening and their passion for the work of JFS. Guests received a “JFS Bill” program and found a goody bag of popcorn and treats for the evening at their seats. Hawthorne kicked off the evening as emcee, introducing JFS Board Chair Eric Goldberg, who thanked the more than 60 volunteers for this event, which had skipped a year due to the pandemic. JFS alternates its Woman-to-Woman Luncheon with Just for Show, but the nonprofit did not hold the event in 2021. Goldberg recognized event chairs Anita and Todd Chanon, and Michael Kaufman and Durward Watson for their hard work ensuring the evening’s success.
JFS President and CEO Cathy Barker then highlighted “Your Journey with JFS,” and introduced Matthew Randazzo, president and CEO of Dallas Foundation. Randazzo shared an emotional story of an unwed mother’s long journey to success due to the help of a very similar Jewish nonprofit in Detroit – a story which turned out to be about his own mother. Barker returned to the stage asking audience members to stand as they related to various scenarios, as she read them aloud, regarding the impact of JFS on their lives – until nearly everyone in the audience was standing.
Joseph and Bohmer then took the stage with a big “Hey Dallas!” and kicked things off with “Merrily We Roll Along – Old Friends,” explaining how they love Dallas, have been here many times, and love being with old friends. “We are here to celebrate the incredible work by JFS!”
Joseph shared her Broadway journey to playing Christine Daaé and how when she first arrived in NYC she was able to get a $15, standing-room-only ticket to The Phantom. She shared that on the closing night earlier that week, after the final curtain call, she went to that same spot and had a moment of gratitude “for letting me be a part of it.” She had dreamed of playing Christine one day and would have never imagined she would play that role for 10 years.
“I only had the courage to move to NYC because of my parents who encouraged me. I sat down with them after college, and my dad said go and give it a time limit of five years. So off I went with my graduation money. At the four-and-one-half-year mark, I was sleeping on a friend’s sofa, and my credit cards were maxed out. I was facing the decision of moving back home to Detroit and admitting failure.
Soon after, my agent called and said I had an audition for the part of Christine. So there I was with Hal Prince and all the supervisors. I was so nervous, and my mouth went dry. I didn’t get the part, but I was the understudy for Christine and in the chorus. I was the mannequin – yes, after all those singing and dancing lessons. But I was on tour, and I was paying back my student loans. We did the show eight times a week. After a year, the actress playing Christine left to take a part in another show. The company flew me back to audition again for Hal Prince and the supervisors. Throughout my audition I made dramatic movements throughout my singing, and the assistant director pulled me aside and said, ‘What in the hell was that?’ I did not get the part. I realized that the most important thing was authenticity – I had been wearing a mask myself. I had no idea if I would ever get another chance, but I got a third call. I knew I needed to drop the mask and be present, be myself and bring heart to the audition.”
Joseph then sang “Think of Me” for the JFS audience just as she had for her audition, complete with a montage of photos of her in the role of Christine showing on the screen behind her. “I couldn’t have seen how it would change my life, but it did in many ways. We were on tour and performing at the Kennedy Center. We had a new Phantom, and now we have been married for more than 20 years. And we survived quarantine! Connection is so important to all of us. I was so grateful to be home and with him!”
She then performed “Times Like This” from the musical Lucky Stiff – “Times like this, a girl could use a dog” – with a photo of their dog in the background. Bohmer entered the stage highlighting that it was their dog Rocky in the picture – a pandemic pup. He shared his enthusiasm for supporting JFS and all they have achieved. He then sang “Some Enchanted Evening,” followed by “Pink Fish” by Alan Menken, a song which mirrors his own journey from a small town outside of Cincinnati to the big city and his Broadway debut as Fyedka in Fiddler on the Roof at the Gershwin Theater.
“At that time, I became a father,” Bohmer continued. “My daughter Cassidy will graduate and become an OBGYN this May. Four to five years later as I was in Les Misérables, I had Austen Danielle who made her Broadway debut in Diana as the understudy and in the chorus.
Austen Danielle entered the stage performing “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie, and she also sang a song from Diana. She shared, “It’s a huge gift to be here and perform with my family and celebrate JFS.” Austen and her dad then sang “Together Forever” from Annie.
Bohmer continued that his Broadway debut took a long time…he was a waiter for nine days, a carriage driver, and sold a down comforter to Meryl Streep! His first big break was playing Fyedka in Fiddler on the Roof in 1990 and working with Gerome Robbins. The threesome then sang “To Life” from Fiddler as well as “Oklahoma,” including a chorus sing-along with the audience.
Concluding the evening, Joseph shared that she and Ron were blown away at all the ways JFS helps people. “It blew our hearts wide open when we heard about it,” she shared. “We all need help from time to time, and they are all inclusive – it doesn’t matter your age, race, religion, or ability to pay… and they’ve been helping people for more than 72 years. We have put something together for you and want to dedicate it to the work you do. On the screen were numerous voicemails left on JFS’s phone for assistance illustrating many different needs, which led into Joseph and Austen Danielle singing “For Good” from Wicked with a montage of photos of JFS serving others – and not a dry eye in the house.
Bohmer entered the stage singing “To Dream the Impossible Dream,” followed by special thanks. He concluded, “We will leave you now with the show that brought us here and will do an entire scene from The Phantom. I have never gotten to sing this to my wife – a song sung by Raoul in the show.”
The audience sat captivated for their final performances, “All I Ask of You” and “Music of the Night.”
Major donors were then invited upstairs for dessert and an after-party, including photos with the performers.
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Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas is a nonsectarian mental health and social services nonprofit that has served anyone regardless of age, race, religion, or ability to pay for more than 72 years. Their mission is to provide effective and accessible whole-person care that promotes lifelong self-sufficiency and well-being for the Greater Dallas community. JFS Dallas offers programs to the community such as individual age-appropriate counseling, family violence intervention, support for older adults, transportation services for disabled or homebound, a client-choice food pantry, and emergency financial assistance. The agency’s comprehensive services impacted over 30,000 lives last year. Jfsdallas.org
PHOTOS BY KIM LEESON