The Cascade Fundraiser Gala Takes Center Stage…

A lot of magic has happened on the Cascade Theatre stage since the renovated Art Deco movie palace opened in 2004. And then there was COVID, a decidedly unmagical performance that darkened the theatre for 2½ years. With “Encore! A Night of Singing, Stories & Sequins,” Alex Hauf-Belden, the theatre’s managing director, seeks to use the former to take some of the sting out of the latter.

Wizard of Oz | Photo by Michael Burke

Hauf-Belden, who started his management role in the fall of 2022, liked the idea of a gala fundraiser and turned to Tara Lihn Faires, the Cascade’s executive producer and event manager, for some creative input. Faires says she had a “big and fancy” concert of some kind in mind until it struck her: “In the middle of the night, I had an epiphany. How cool would it be to do excerpts from every musical that’s been on the Cascade stage?”

Sound of Music | Photo by Michael Burke

That realization led her to a second insight: Any discussion of Cascade’s history of musicals needs to include the Redding Dance Project and its founder, James Santos, whose energy, drive and creativity lit up the stage from the Cascade’s earliest days.

Sound of Music | Photo by Michael Burke

“I saw a trend. James initiated everything at the beginning and then Jana (Pulcini-Leard, the former general manager and executive producer) did the scripted musicals and Cascade Christmas, and she left and I took over. And it sort of evolved. The Cascade is the big stage in Redding and everyone wants to get involved,” says Faires, a Redding native who returned to her hometown in 2017. “I was thinking how great if I could get James involved. We talked for an hour and I could hear the passion in his voice and how he started at the theatre. It was just magical. I could hear it in his voice how important the Cascade is for him.”

Tara Faires and James Santos | Photo by Michael Burke

Santos, now living and working in Las Vegas, says the phone call was “an amazing conversation. I had a lot of ideas. She knew lot of the Dance Project history at the Cascade. The timing worked out well and I took off with it.”

Shrek | Photo by Michael Burke

Santos will direct “Encore!” and Faires will serve as the producer. The two will share emcee duties and Lizzie Stoxen will serve as music director. To add a touch of elegance to the gala, Redding violinist Katheryn Hewatt and her Toccata Strings quartet will accompany the evening.

Shrek | Photo by Michael Burke

“I’m super excited about this project,” says Santos, who has already heard from more than 70 performers eager to return to the Cascade stage. Santos understands the appeal. “Each show you do, you build this tight-knit family that, if it’s a good experience, you’ll look back on fondly. It is community; a sense of belonging somewhere outside of what the world is hitting you with.”

Peter Pan | Photo by Michael Burke

Santos has written a script for the evening and left some room for improvisation and a surprise or two. Faires says it’s a fun challenge to come up with “some kind of homage” to every show. The other challenge will be cramming rehearsals into the week prior to the performance. “It’ll be ‘work by the seat of your pants,’ but that’s what us theatre people do,” Faires says.

Matilda | Photo by Michael Burke

Hauf-Belden says the gala fundraiser will be an annual affair, with the first event intended to help the Cascade recover from the devastating losses experienced when the theatre was forced to close during the brunt of the COVID pandemic. “We lost a lot of money … 2½ solid years of losing thousands and thousands of dollars,” Hauf-Belden says. “We’re still losing, but it’s less. We’re making progress.”

Matilda | Photo by Michael Burke

To drum up support for “Encore!” and the Cascade’s return to its status as a cornerstone of Redding’s downtown revitalization, Hauf-Belden has been busy forming partnerships with arts organizations, Rotary clubs, the Redding Chamber of Commerce and others.

Mamma Mia | Photo by Michael Burke

The reception has been affirming, he says. Various downtown stakeholders have been enthusiastic to reconnect with the grand old theatre. “The community has been wonderful,” says Hauf-Belden, who adds that he tends to view every challenge as an opportunity.

Hairspray | Photo by Michael Burke

Next year’s gala will center around the Cascade Theatre’s 20th anniversary “and we’ll celebrate Redding, this building and its contributions to Redding,” Hauf-Belden says. •

Hairspray | Photo by Michael Burke

Encore! – Cascade Theatre’s Gala, Silent Auction and Fundraising Event • Saturday, June 24; 6 pm silent auction, 7:30 pm show
Cascade Theatre, 1733 Market St., Redding
Tickets: $45, $65, $75 and $90 (includes free popcorn, soda, coffee, tea, bottled water, snacks and candy; alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase)
(530) 243-8877 •

Cascade Christmas 2013 | Photo by Michael Burke
Cascade Christmas 2010 | Photo by Michael Burke
Cascade Theatre | Photo by Michael Burke
About Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a Redding-based writer with 37 years of experience. A longtime San Francisco Giants fan, his interests include golf, fishing and sharing stories about people, places and things. He can be reached at [email protected]

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