By Marion Filler
For Laura Ana Blanche, Morristown Onstage is a chance to re-connect, and to give back.
To re-connect…with Zachary Wheeler, who she met at the Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University.
To give back…to the Morris Educational Foundation, which underwrites a program attended by Blanche’s 3-year-old daughter at the Lafayette Learning Center.
“The MEF directly supports the program that is helping her,” Blanche said of her speech-delayed little girl. “I had seen posters for Morristown Onstage for years, and thought this is my chance to give back.”
Blanche and Wheeler are among 14 amateur acts from Greater Morristown that will compete for cash and accolades on Feb. 26, 2020, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Now in its 13th year, Morristown Onstage is a benefit for programs in the Morris School District. More than 60 acts tried out for the talent show.
Blanche and Wheeler will sing The Prayer. Originally performed by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, the song flows between English and Italian. It’s a perfect fit for Wheeler’s smooth operatic voice, as it weaves around Blanche’s silky soprano.
At Temple, where the pair were among only a handful of students accepted into the music program, they discovered some some “weird” personal connections, according to Blanche.
“We are only one Social Security number apart,” she said. That carried over to their student I.D. cards, causing some confusion.
After graduation, they went in different directions. Blanche, a mother of three, lives in Morristown and owns Connect Properties, a real estate company.
Wheeler is a news anchor for an NBC TV affiliate near Ithaca, NY. He drove three hours for the audition.
Reuniting for Morristown Onstage struck them both as a great idea.
“We’re always going to sing together,” said Wheeler, “and we would love to sing more.”
Produced by the nonprofit Morris Educational Foundation, Morristown Onstage is open to amateurs who live, work or study in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains, and to alumni of Morristown High School. From more than 60 acts that auditioned, 14 were chosen to compete on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Show business pros will award $1,000 to the top youth and adult performers, and the audience favorite will take home $500. Tickets go on sale Jan. 29. Proceeds benefit Morris School District programs.