A Sense of Belonging: Made in Buffalo’s Cheryl Stern
Broadway and television star Cheryl Stern returns to Buffalo later this month on April 25 for Federation’s Made in Buffalo virtual event: From Buffalo to Broadway: Waiting in the Wings. Cheryl’s Broadway credits include the Tony Award Winning Revival of La Cage Aux Folles, starring Kelsey Grammer, The Women with Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Tilly and Kristen Johnston (Roundabout; filmed for PBS), Candide (NY City Opera) and Laughing Room Only starring Jackie Mason.
“The Made in Buffalo experience is so meaningful in countless ways,” Cheryl told My Jewish Buffalo. “I loved growing up in Buffalo and was always active in Temple Youth Group at TBZ and at the Jewish Center. But leaving town at 18 to go to college and then moving to NY, I drifted from the friends I had known and from a real sense of Jewish community. “
The Made in Buffalo planning team of volunteer and professional leaders is passionately led by Federation officer Marjorie Bryen. “Margie and the whole MIB team have opened their hearts to me and my husband Tom and given us both such a sense of belonging and for me, a deep pride in my roots. We have felt so cared for, respected and the sense of constant collaboration and mutual trust has been such a breath of fresh air! While we loved working together to bring Shoes and Baggage to Shea’s 710 last year (the program was cancelled due to Covid), the real reward has proved to be during this most challenging year as we have worked to birth From Buffalo to Broadway.
CJEL’s Director of Jewish Experience, Susan Goldberg Schwartz has known Cheryl since high school. “Cheryl and I got to know each other through the music and drama departments. I remember her charismatic smile, her unending enthusiasm and energy and her love of performing. We both sang in choir, participated in the annual musicals (Fiddler on the Roof ’72, Oklahoma ‘73 and Finian’s Rainbow ‘74) and were members of the girl’s singing group, the Sweet Sixteens, which Cheryl directed during our Sr. year.“
Getting to return to Amherst High for the filming of MIB was a total delight, reflects Cheryl. “I so loved my high school years and especially being a part of the Musical Theatre gang. So being able to return to take a stroll down memory lane and walk those hallowed halls again was just profound! Justin Pomietlarz, the school’s choral director, was the most amazing host during our filming. It was just beyond wonderful to sing on that auditorium stage once again and feel such a sense of continuity and connectivity!”
In addition to the April 25 program, Cheryl is also offering a masterclass the following day to Buffalo community teens who are interested in pursuing a career in the theatre. “I love teaching and especially helping students who will be applying to arts programs at a university level,” adds Cheryl. “I am really looking forward to giving back and learning from the students that participate in this event. It means so much!”
As with any experience, there are always unexpected outcomes. For Cheryl, it was not only reconnecting with Buffalo, but also to her Judaism. “It’s in the giving back! It’s in the connectivity. It’s in the traditions, community and continued quest for knowledge. I have felt such a connection and gratitude and it feels so very good to be a part of the Jewish community of Buffalo. I know this is just the beginning of a revitalized and rich relationship and I look forward to all that’s ahead! I’m back, Buffalo, and thank you!!”
There is no cost to participate in The Made in Buffalo event on Sunday evening, April 25, but reservations are required.
The upper right picture shows a scene from Finian’s Rainbow with Cheryl in the middle and Susan on the right