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Broadway stars ready 'A Matinee in Harlem' to help repair landmark church

10/19/2011, 7:07 p.m.

Rehearsals are in full swing as a cast of more than two dozen of the finest African-American performing artists puts the finishing touches on two Broadway-style concerts they will stage on Oct. 22 at St. James Presbyterian Church as a fundraiser to help with repairs to the Harlem landmark.

With two showings of "A Matinee in Harlem" (1 and 4:30 p.m.) the performers are hoping to raise enough money to contain the damage caused by Hurricane Irene last August and catch up on other long-overdue repairs. They're literally answering the prayers of a cash-strapped congregation that has been hard-pressed to keep up with the cost of maintaining the neo-Gothic structure nestled on the corner of 141st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

Home to one of the oldest African-American congregations in the city-116 years and counting-St. James has been at the heart of Harlem's cultural expression and development. Indeed, the Harlem School of the Arts was started in the church, which has always had a soft spot for performing artists. St. James' music director, Linda Twine, is a noted Broadway composer, conductor and arranger, and many other well-known performers call the church their spiritual home.

A veritable who's who of African-American Broadway stars, including a few "surprise" performers, will have St. James rocking with their rollicking revue. Spirituals, opera, vaudeville, blues, jazz, pop, interpretive dance and showstopping torch songs from Black Broadway musicals are all on the thrilling program-a timeline of the African-American cultural experience.

Expect outstanding performances from Barbara Mills, Ben Brown, Eli Fountain, Gayle Turner, James Alexander, Janinah Burnett, Joseph Joubert, Larry Marshall, Lawrence Hamilton, Lucy Shropshire, NaTasha Williams, Oscar Maxwell III, Phillip Boykin, Priscilla Baskerville, Randall Haywood, Richard Bellazzin, Richard Waits, Roslyn Burrough, Teresa Stanley, Victor Trent Cook and Yusha-Marie Sorzano.

Tickets for general seating-there's not a bad seat in the house!-are $35. Group rates are available. Call (212) 470-3603 or email matineeinharlem@gmail.com for further details.

"A Matinee in Harlem" is presented by the Women of St. James Presbyterian Church and is proudly supported by the New York Amsterdam News.