Those new to San Francisco might not be familiar with today's AIDS fundraiser gala and cabaret-style concert “Help Is On The Way” at the Palace of Fine Arts.
Now in its 19th year, the main event offers performances by a bevy of artists from all corners of entertainment. Bookending the show are a party with silent auction and a post-show celebrity-elbow-rubbing reception, where ticketholders might meet Loretta Devine, Maureen McGovern or Donna McKechnie or catch up with returning favorites Carole Cook, Lisa Vroman and Paula West.
Some of the guys in the cast include Jason Brock, Jim Bailey and Spencer Day.
The new face on the talent roster, Alex Newell of “Glee,” has been on earth only slightly longer than the concert has been in existence. In fact, he celebrates his 21st birthday on Tuesday, just two days after pouring his heart into “Meadowlark” onstage here in The City.
“I sing in front of a camera for a living, so singing for a live audience is absolutely thrilling for me,” he sighs.
Unlike some of his television co-stars, Newell started playing a high school student while still actually in high school. “It was kind of trippy. The others have to remember what it was like, but I'm just kind of extending it,” he says with a wicked laugh.
If playing high school came easy, playing Unique, a transgender student, has lived up to the name.
“Some fans ask how come Unique gets to sing with the girls but Kurt [Chris Colfer] didn't. So you have to let them know that Kurt never identified as female but Unique feels more comfortable with the females and being a normal teenage girl.”
The confusion isn't limited to the fans. “People think because I play a transgender character that I am myself transgender. Someone on a red carpet asked me, 'So how far along are you in your process…your transition?' I was like…transition to what? Am I doing my job too well or what?”
The articulate Newell, who speaks with lilting inflections, didn't expect to become a representative for the trans community.
“You think you're just going to play a role and hope for the best,” he says. “It's nice feeling you're now a voice for those whose voice isn't always heard. It gives everyone a wider understanding.”
Presented by the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, this year's gala benefits AIDS Housing Alliance, Aguilas, Project Open Hand and Shanti.
IF YOU GO
Help is on the Way XIX
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.
When: 6 p.m. reception, 7:30 p.m. performance
Tickets: $65 performance; $125 for reception and show
Contact: (415) 273-1620, www.helpisontheway.org