America's Oldest · Founded 1808

Broadway Star and Philadelphia Native Hugh Panaro to be Honored at 203rd Anniversary Gala Concert on May 11!

April 19, 2012

Hugh Panaro in Les Misérables (2008). Photo by Mark Garvin.

PHILADELPHIA - Walnut Street Theatre is pleased to announce that it will celebrate multiple honorees this year with the 2012 Edwin Forrest Award at its landmark 203rd Anniversary Gala. Following a pre-concert champagne reception, this rockin' evening will begin with a spectacular 90-minute concert featuring some of Philadelphia's favorite Walnut performers including Rachel Camp, Sarah Gliko, Scott Greer, Danielle Herbert, Ben Lipitz, Hugh Panaro, Michael Philip O'Brien, Lyn Philistine, Christopher Sutton, Denise Whelan and the Walnut casts of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and Rodgers and Hammerstein's A Grand Night for Singing. All proceeds from the Gala benefit the Walnut Street Theatre's Education and Outreach programming, which reaches over 110,000 children annually in the Delaware Valley.

The Gala Concert, Let the Good Times Roll!, will entertain attendees on the Walnut Street Theatre Mainstage at 7:30PM on Friday, May 11, with a pre-concert Champagne Reception beginning at 6:30PM. Following the Gala Concert, a VIP After-Party will be held on the Thomas Jefferson University Campus in the Dorrance H. Hamilton Building (1001 Locust Street, between 10th and 11th Streets).

This event is held annually to honor members of the business community and the artistic community with the Edwin Forrest Award for their contributions to American Theatre. The award was created in 1990 in honor of the leading American actor of the nineteenth century, Edwin Forrest. Forrest is a Philadelphia native who made his debut at the Walnut in 1820. This year the Walnut honors celebrated Broadway star and Walnut performer Hugh Panaro and Martin W. Spector, Walnut Trustee and retired Executive Vice President, General Counsel, ARAMARK.

Philadelphia native Hugh Panaro is truly a treasure of the American stage. With a remarkable list of credits, including Walnut Street Theatre, he is one of the most popular actors to play The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. Panaro is currently performing the iconic role at Broadway's Majestic Theatre. The Walnut is proud to welcome Hugh Panaro back to Philadelphia, where his love for theatre began, to honor him with the Edwin Forrest Award.

Born in Philadelphia, Panaro is celebrated as one of Broadway's leading tenors. Prior to his Broadway fame, Panaro served as a church organist at Saint Helena's Roman Catholic Church during high school and studied music at Temple University (BA in voice, class of '85). One of his first professional roles was at Walnut Street Theatre for the 1986 production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. He has since returned to play the leading roles of Fagin in Oliver! and Jean Valjean in the Walnut's record-breaking production of Les Misérables, for which he won the Barrymore Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

In 1988, Panaro originated the role of Marius Pontmercy in the first national touring production of Les Miserables, moving up to the Broadway company several months later. His success on Broadway continued with The Phantom of the Opera (Raoul de Chagny, The Phantom), The Red Shoes (Julian Craster), Show Boat (Ravenal), Side Show (Buddy) and as the title character in Elton John's Lestat. Panaro originated the title role in the U.S. tour of Martin Guerre and drew praise for performances in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and Merrily We Roll Along in Los Angeles and as Anthony Hope in the Kennedy Center's 2002 production of Sweeney Todd.

The Walnut is delighted to honor Martin W. Spector with the Edwin Forrest Award for his continued service to Walnut Street Theatre. A proud family man, lifelong learner and supporter of the arts, Spector was elected as a Trustee of Walnut Street Theatre in 1989. He and wife Cindy co-chaired the Walnut Street Theatre Gala in 1992. In 1998, he lent his legal expertise to revise the theatre's By-Laws and from 1997 to 2000, he stepped up to chair the theatre's Nominating Committee. In that role, he was a champion for recruiting the strongest trustees for the Walnut's Board and helped the Theatre strengthen and grow to where it is today.

Spector retired as Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary from ARAMARK in 2001. During his 30 year career, ARAMARK grew to be one of the world's largest diversified services management companies for food, leisure, support services and uniform management services. Spector graduated Philadelphia's Central High School with honors at the top of his class. During his collegiate career at Pennsylvania State University he majored in Political Science and graduated in 1959 with distinction. In 2000, Penn State recognized him with the Outstanding Alumni Award for his significant career achievements and for his work as an outstanding role model for the college's current Liberal Arts students. Spector graduated second in his class and Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Spector is husband to Cindy, father to Steven (married to Sheri) and Michael (married to Alison) and proud grandfather to Megan, Cole, Harry and Evan.

The Gala Committee Chairmen are Walnut Trustees Mr. Albert A. Giagnacova (Yardley, PA), Mr. Edward J. Ryan (Glenside, PA) and Mr. Jon Sirlin (Philadelphia, PA).