Broadway to Barbados: Music for good
“Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.”
- from “For Good”, one of the hit songs from “Wicked”, (Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)
After a five-year run from its 2013 launch and its most recent staging in 2017, Neil Burg’s Broadway to Barbados is returning this year after a two-year hiatus. The show will be staged at the Frank Collymore Hall for six nights, February 27 to 29, and March 5-7. It is the signature project of a local charity who sole objective is to raise funds for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the money to be used to assist with the purchase of diagnostic and monitoring equipment, and to fund acute care training programmes.
To date, the charity, the Broadway to Barbados Charitable Trust (No. 1057) has focused mainly on the Richard Haynes Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU), but it has also assisted the Accident & Emergency Department. For instance, in the case of the MICU, what the medical professionals call “critical life-saving equipment” has been commissioned, and in the case of the A&E department, diagnostic equipment has been provided to help critically-ill patients.
In order to get the most revenue into the QEH, members of the production team “participate at no cost to the charity,” according to the show’s 2017 programme, and all management services and fund-raising efforts for the charity are provided “on a pro bono basis by the management and staff of several lead sponsors.”
This type of undertaking is complex, to say the least, and both sides - the QEH, as a public institution, and the sponsors and organisers from the private sector - are given oversight powers, with the former having a seat on the charity’s board and the latter given the mandate to audit how the equipment is being used and maintained.
The financial goal of the show in its first-five year period produced donations to the hospital of nearly $1.5 million. Most of this - around $1.25 million - went into equipment purchase, and the remaining $250,000 or so into training. I don’t know how you feel about that, but to me it is an impressive achievement.
We have only talked abut the money. But the cultural impact of this type of show can have a major beneficial effect on Barbados, first, as another major event on our tourism calendar, and second, by offering Barbadians the chance to see Broadway professionals performing live, a real boon given the cost of your average ticket to an actual Broadway show these days.
If you have been as amazed as I have been at the talent we have here beyond the most popular forms of music (just take in an Operation Triple Threat performance sometime) and you have noted the news of Barbadians and performers from our sister islands getting good slots in touring Broadway shows, you will realise the potential for good that we can provide to young and talented people by allowing them to see shows like Broadway to Barbados on home turf at a fraction of the cost of such shows abroad.
Health care is the country’s largest financial commitment to its citizens, and with every Barbadian guaranteed the right to it, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is under serious financial pressure. Almost every week, including last week, there is news of something out of stock, or some important equipment down for lack of supplies or maintenance.
Perhaps as a result, the government has taken a controversial step in combining the roles of chairman and CEO into one position, essentially reporting only to the minister of health, who reports to the Cabinet.
I think this course has been taken in order to make decision making faster and more direct, in order to effect certain major changes over the course of the next few years (one would assume).
Two years ago, in a message appearing in the last Broadway to Barbados programme, Chairman of the charity Robert Bourque said, “We believe that the efforts of the BBCT have significantly improved intensive care to patients and our future initiatives to restore inoperable equipment, initiate assistance in upgrading of diagnostic and monitoring equipment for the Accident & Emergency Department, and identifying acute care training for various hospital staff members.”
The effort, he said would benefit “families, relatives, friends, employees and visitors to the island,” and he hoped the community as a whole would “step forward to supportt this private sector initiative.”
As the next few weeks go by, more details about who is performing at this year’s show will be announced, but for now, all I can tell you is that the theme is rock’n’roll, and Barbadian Andre Woodvine will be among the performers.
Now that Broadway to Barbados is back, I hope that it will be able to be here with us a long time, as it has shown in a tangible way how music can be used as a force for good in society.
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