It’s not every day that four Broadway stars take requests from older adults, sing show tunes and pay tribute to long-term care workers, all in one performance. Especially during a pandemic.
But that’s exactly what New Jersey-based Van Dyk Health Care recently arranged for its residents and employees.
Catherine Brunell, Natalie Cortez, Nick Spangler and James Moye performed a one-hour show for residents, staff members and others associated with Van Dyk Park Place assisted living, At Home With Van Dyk and the Van Dyk Memory Care Center. It was recorded via Zoom and broadcast on YouTube and Facebook. (See below.)
Van Dyk Health Care President and CEO Bob Van Dyk said he wanted the virtual show to be “a creative and fun way to remind our staff and our families how much we care for them.”
This year’s performance was a continuation of “When Broadway Goes Dark, Van Dyk Goes Live,” which in the previous two years was an Alzheimer’s awareness event for Van Dyk.
The event originated with Chief Operating Officer Michael Wissot, Van Dyk said. Wissot has been friends with Moye since college and originally asked him whether he and some friends would be willing to perform.
“Four Broadway performers came over from New York, and they put on a whole show at our assisted living community,” Van Dyk said.
All of the performers had someone in their lives who was affected by Alzheimer’s except for Cortez, whose son is on the autism spectrum, Van Dyk said. “She said, ‘I really understand the challenge of being a caregiver. It can be very hard at times,” he added.
The original, in-person show “was such a hit that the following year, we rented a performing arts center. We charged admission and raised money for Alzheimer’s,” Van Dyk said. “That was last year. And then, of course, Broadway has really gone dark.”
Once long-term care communities implemented no-visitor and social distancing policies earlier this year, Van Dyk said, the idea of a virtual show came about. With the performers on board, Van Dyk Health Care took resident requests and forwarded them to the performers, who dedicated the songs to various residents and workers and performed a few additional songs that were meaningful to them in some way.
Residents could watch the performance from their rooms on the in-house television system, and staff members could watch on televisions in hallways and common areas as they worked, or from their homes if they weren’t at work. Family members also could watch from their homes.
“It was a whole tribute to our healthcare workers with songs chosen by residents sung by some of Broadway’s top names,” Van Dyk said. “We received notes from families, the residents were thrilled, and the staff felt so good that Broadway would actually honor them in that manner.”
This year’s program was such a success that Van Dyk said the company hopes to bring the Broadway performers back for a fourth event — live and to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, like the previous two events — “as soon as we can get back out in person.”
“This particular event had nothing to do with Alzheimer’s and everything to do with telling our staff ‘thank you for being there each day’ and letting them know how much people really understand and care,” Van Dyk said. “I can’t thank the performers enough.”
Moye said: “Our healthcare workers have been such an inspiration, and we’re honored that the Van Dyk family invited us to pay tribute to our healthcare workers and everyone they serve.”
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