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Queens actors to help Fresh Meadows school

Queens performers will turn PS 177 in Fresh Meadows into their own version of Broadway this Saturday in an effort to raise money to buy technology that officials said will dramatically improve the special education students’ school experience.

About a dozen singers will put on the show “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” at 8 p.m. Saturday for a crowd of hundreds. There are still about 70 tickets remaining and officials said they would like to see a sold-out crowd in order to raise as much as they possibly can with the hopes of buying something like a SmartBoard, an interactive white board that can cost as much as $10,000 and which PS 177 Principal Kathy Posa said the students love.

“Our goal is to get a SmartBoard in every classroom, but that’s a long way off,” Posa said. “The kids are so motivated by what they see on the SmartBoard. For example, there’s a special reading program with characters and they respond so well to that.”

PS 177, at 56-37 188th St. in Fresh Meadows, has a population of 500 special education students ages 5 to 21, many of whom are autistic.

The school has always obtained financial support from legislators, including former Flushing City Councilman and now city Comptroller John Liu, but Posa said school officials wanted to hold the fund-raiser because they believe the weak economy may hamper the kind of help they once received from politicians.

“In this tough economic environment, you’ve got to be creative to get additional resources,” Posa said. “With this show, we get to raise money for much-needed supplies and technology equipment to help our kids succeed, while also offering a great night of entertainment at a reasonable cost for members of the community.”

Saturday’s cabaret-style show will be a two-part production in which the performers will revisit pieces they knew early in their careers, songs they may currently be performing and those they would like to do in the future. For example, Bayside resident Michael Chimenti will sing a song from a role he played in high school — Pippin — and others will entertain the audience with pieces from musicals like “Guys and Dolls” and “Evita.”

Paul Bianchi, the show’s director, said the first part of the production will have a theme of idealistic love while the second act will focus more on the trials and tribulations of romance.

“Saturday is about people coming together from the community to raise money for the community,” Bianchi said.

Many of those performing have been involved in theater throughout the region and are volunteering their time for the performance. Robert Gino, an occupational therapist at PS 177 and a performer, originally brought together the actors and actresses for the show.

Since Gino joined the PS 177 staff nine years ago, he has helped to organize several fund-raisers and performed in three traditional Broadway-style musicals at the school in the past.

“It’s exciting to work with my friends, to see them recreate past performances and to hear them sing new songs with our amazing ensemble of musicians,” Gino said. “And what makes it even more special is that we get to do it at PS 177, a special environment for special kids.”

Tickets are $20 and are available by calling the school at 718-357-4650.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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