A Tony Award-winning actor is lending a hand to the students of Canyon Crest Academy.
Christian Hoff — perhaps best known for his role as Tommy DeVito in the hit Broadway show "Jersey Boys" — will perform with dozens of kids at CCA's Proscenium Theater on Feb.10 for the school's annual gala, "Oh! What a Night!"
The La Jolla native and San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts graduate, who performed in more than 1,500 performances of "Jersey Boys," rehearsed with students at the school Dec. 18 and 19, helping them with songs.
Prior to the rehearsals, he chatted about the importance of the event and the role the arts can play in children's lives.
What will you be doing with the students at CCA?
The plan, and the design of our show, is about inclusion. We're taking the best of the CCA student band and vocalists, and we're putting it together. Basically, I'm doing what I do for a living. I'm a singer and an actor, but I'm including the kids in a number of tunes. We're not only going to showcase the talent here, but how we do things here at CCA and how we can put something together that's unique and dynamic, but natural and in the moment.
What is your goal for this event?
I want to teach these kids that they can do something that's outside their normal curriculum in school and still be a part of the school and support it. ... There are a lot of kids that don't get to necessarily play or sing together all the time, or maybe they're not in one of the choral ensembles. We've put together a company of CCA students that are going to get to shine and represent the school in a unique way.
Have you done anything like this before?
I've been a part of doing this all my life. I grew up in the theatre and started when I was 8. I've always had an affinity for including other people to join in something that I believe was a gift for me. Someone told me I could do it when I didn't think I could. When I had that self-doubt, and someone told me I could do something, that's what I needed. I needed someone to say, "Yes, you can," and mean it.
Did you have someone to look up to as a kid, as these students are looking up to you?
I had mentors that let me know that these things were possible and that they were attainable with hard work, the right attitude, discipline and doing it — not dreaming of it or wishing it be so but actually making it happen. I think that's why I'm here. I can make it happen for these kids and give them a little glimpse at just how close and within reach greatness is, and it has nothing to do with ego, it's about your gifts, talents, personality and uniqueness, and connecting that with other people. There needs to be craft, discipline, a canvas, that paint, and, in this sense, we get to showcase what that looks like. It's a concert, fundraiser and gala. There's going to be so much love and support, not only for the school but also for these kids. If I can make it happen by facilitating that to have a little bit of magic, then I think that's awesome.
How important is an event like this in a time when funding is becoming more scarce for the arts in schools?
In any community across the country, it's about the people, not just the funding. People will fund it but you need to reach the people, entertain the people and let them know what the ask is. I see opportunities like this — with budgets being cut and arts dwindling — as an opportunity for people to make an even bigger difference.
What do performing arts do for the kids?
Speaking personally, performing arts gave me an opportunity to shine, go out there and do something that I didn't know was possible until someone told me about the theatre. It was a place where I could be a storyteller and a character as well.
"Oh! What a Night!" with Hoff takes place Feb. 10 at CCA's Proscenium Theater. Along with the live entertainment, guests will enjoy a live auction, online auction and dinner catered by Dolce at the Highlands, located at The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch in Carmel Valley. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.canyoncrestfoundation.org/events/gala2018