Upstage Lung Cancer to host an “Unforgettable” evening November 12

Arts, Community, Events, Health

Joyce Kulhawik, Brian De Lorenzo, Hildy Grossman, Scott Wahle and Leigh Barrett perform at Upstaging Lung Cancer's annual event

Singing to Remember

By Matt Robinson

The act of singing, as good as it might feel even to the ungifted, is not what usually comes to mind when the conversation veers to cathartic experience or an expression of survival. But if organizers behind this month’s Upstage Lung Cancer event have their way, Boston will be singing its way into harmony and healing.

The charitable Upstage Lung Cancer organization is producing “Unforgettable,” an homage to the human singing voice at Boston’s Lyric Stage on November 12. The evening, billed as a twin tribute to Nat King Cole and Rosemary Clooney, will celebrate these two velvet-toned crooners not just because of their iconic songbook from a bygone era, but because they both succumbed to lung cancer.

Upstage Lung Cancer was founded in 2008 by Hildy Grossman, a clinical psychologist and professional singer, who is herself a lung cancer survivor. Diagnosed inadvertently in 2006 after an in-home fall, Grossman was successfully treated. Her post-cancer gratitude for her good health is omnipresent. With a penchant for making meaningful connections through her parallel professions, Grossman became determined to build lung cancer awareness using musical and theatrical entertainment to raise disease-fighting funds “We are using the elixir of life to fight lung cancer,” Grossman writes on the Upstage website.

Extraordinary publicity and fundraising events across the United States have transformed breast and prostate cancers into diseases with statistics to which both women and men can relate. Breast cancer feels incredibly close when the chance of a diagnosis is described as one in eight. In comparison, little is said about lung cancer, even though it is considered the deadliest form of cancer around the world. “The public is not aware that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer,” says Grossman. “More than breast, ovarian, uterine and colon cancer combined.”  Like breast cancer, the disease hits women hardest. The sharpest increase in lung cancer diagnoses has been among non-smoking women.

Grossman, who performs with the cabaret group the Follen Angels, uses her stage time to remind audiences that lung cancer is not just a smoker’s affliction. ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, lyricist Frank Loesser and opera superstar Beverly Sills are amongst the most notable victims of lung cancer. Grossman says their high-profile diagnoses help to diminish the perception that lung cancer develops only in longtime smokers.

This month’s event will the fourth produced by Upstage Lung Cancer and the evening promises to deliver. Besides Grossman, the pool of Boston’s talented musicians and actors will include Leigh Barrett, Brian De Lorenzo, Paula Markowicz and Scott Wahle as well as Lisa Rafferty of “MOMologues” fame.  Emmy Award winning arts and entertainment critic Joyce Kulhawik will emcee the evening, which will be directed by Ilyse Robbins with Tim Evans as music director.


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