(KINGSTON, N.Y.) – “Modern Vaudeville,” a variety show based on the James Hurst story “The Scarlet Ibis” and featuring an all-star cast pulled together by Diggy (Elijah) Lessard, a graduating senior at Woodstock Day School, takes place at BSP Kingston on Sunday, May 22, at 7pm. Among those performing are bassist Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band; Bobby Tisdale of “Bob’s Burgers;” pianist Marco Benevento; firewalker and burlesque performer Veronica Varlow; “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” magician Albert Cadabra, and The Strangecoats, a house band made up of some of the region’s top musicians, including Amy Helm and Simi Stone.
All proceeds will benefit the Woodstock Day School Music Department.
Like other graduating seniors at Woodstock Day School, Diggy Lessard has big plans for next year (Sarah Lawrence Class of 2020). But first, he’s leaving his mark with signature style, creating an original theatrical production, “Modern Vaudeville,” as part of his graduation requirement for an interactive senior project.
Based on the James Hunt short story “The Scarlet Ibis,” which Lessard read as a young teen, “Modern Vaudeville” features a variety of performances: circus, comedy, dance, drama, music and magic, as well as some all-star guests, including Lessard’s father, bassist Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band. Other performers include Bobby Tisdale of “Bob’s Burgers;” pianist Marco Benevento; firewalker and burlesque performer Veronica Varlow; “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” magician Albert Cadabra, and The Strangecoats, a house band made up of some of the region’s top musicians, including Amy Helm and Simi Stone.
“I have such a huge connection and passion for performing,” says Lessard, “and I wanted to put on a unique and special show. My parents introduced me to this genre of entertainment and I was hooked.”
He continues, “I read ‘The Scarlet Ibis’ in tenth grade, and it touched me immediately because of its theme of brothers and the fierce love between siblings; something about the theme really stuck with me.”
When it came time to write and stage his project, Lessard immediately decided to go big. He set a goal of raising $20K in funds for the Woodstock Day School (WDS) music program, asked BSP to host the event for free, and began to sell sponsorships to support the show. Ranging in price from $150 to $1,000, sponsorship perks include original jingles written and performed by The Strangecoats (along with Stefan Lessard) and other creative opportunities that Lessard dreamed up as a way for local businesses to show support of WDS’s music program. His strategy has paid off; Lessard already has sold several thousand dollars in sponsorships and shows no sign of slowing down.
WDS Head of School Kara Stern said, “Diggy may not have graduated yet, but his generosity, creativity, and perseverance are truly mature reflections of our mission.”
Of his world-famous father, Lessard simple says, “I was forming a band to play original music for the show and I was looking for a bassist. I’m lucky that my dad got one day off in the middle of his tour.”
Stefan Lessard will be in good company; the rest of the house band includes drummer Jason Bowman (Five Points Band), Peter Dougan (WDS music teacher), Will Bryant (Connor Kennedy/Gene Ween Does Billy Joel), Amy Helm, Simi Stone, singer/songwriter Elizabeth Mitchell (Ida), Acacia Bowman (Five Points Band) Lisa Green (co-founder of The Paul Green Rock Academy) and a few of Diggy’s fellow Rock Academy students.
Many of these connections came via Rock Academy, and co-founder Paul Green couldn’t be more proud of his pupil: “Diggy is one of my favorite people and it’s always great when students take the initiative and go out on their own to set up gigs like this.”