Colin Sheehan Puts His Talent to Work for Branford
In 2016, Colin Sheehan brought the community together by organizing #Branford4Orlando. In 2017, he founded the Cathyann Roding Scholarship by raising $10,000 with an alumni-packed performance at Branford High School (BHS). In fact, since he was a teen, Colin has been sharing his talents to give back to Branford. Now, with Colin Sheehan Events (CSE), he not only delivers memorable events, but works to help local non-profits put on fundraising programs for the best possible return.
As friend to Broadway stars and some notable entertainment personalities, “I want to be able to utilize my resources, and my Rolodex, to raise money for these local organizations, because a lot of them are struggling, and because it comes easier for me to do it,” says Colin. “With Colin Sheehan Events, I want to help non-profits make more money at their events.”
CSE was established in September and the event list is already growing. On Nov. 4, Colin brought best-selling author Adam Greenberg, a former Major League Baseball player, to town for an event benefiting Campaign for the Blackstone. Fans seeking other entertaining events supporting local causes can keep up with Colin’s listings at www.colinsheehanevents.com or by following Colin Sheehan Events on Facebook.
“In New York City, a lot of people do what I do, but not in Branford,” says Colin. “So I’m finding a lot of people are coming to us to plan events and bring the community together.”
Colin puts his performance talent on tap to help, too.
“I love hosting events and live auctions,” he says. “In the last year, in events that I’ve hosted, I’ve raised over $200,000 for local organizations. It is a skill, and I love doing it, and I just want to keep doing it.”
Colin’s delighted to be filling a need he’s found in his hometown, and to be getting a great community response.
“I just started a [CSE] Facebook page, and overnight, we had 200 followers. My social media following is good; but it also shows there’s a need,” says Colin, who also recently accepted an offer to join the Branford Community Foundation’s board of directors.
Colin has been a Branford community presence from a young age, which is also when he became a familiar face across the country. As the 8th-grade class president at St. Mary’s Catholic School, Colin wrote, produced, and starred as Santa in Miracle at the Mall (loosely based on Miracle on 34th Street). The 13 year-old aspiring actor then landed recurring appearances on the Rosie O’Donnell Show (1999) and continued to work with and become O’Donnell’s friend in the ensuing years.
As a teen, Colin began giving back to Branford when he established MusiKids in 2003.
“For my [BHS] senior project, I said, ‘I’m going to do a one-man show and start a charity called MusiKids, and it’s only going to last a year,’” says Colin. “It lasted seven years. We gave out over $30,000 in scholarships to local talented students for instruments and lessons and band camps.”
Colin’s four years as a BHS choral and spring musical member introduced him to two of his mentors: Cathyann Roding and Toni Cartisano. The duo co-directed Colin as Javert in BHS’s groundbreaking production of Les Misérables (2003).
“The part was so unlike me, because I’m a bubbly person, and that’s how people knew me—what you saw when I was a 13 year-old on the number-one TV talk show is exactly how I am today,” says Colin. “So playing the mean, evil villain was crazy! But when I got into the process, I realized I could be an actor, because I was pulling it off. Cathyann and Toni took a leap.”
Thanks to the BHS production, Colin was singled out from 400 auditioned students to appear among 36 high school players on stage at the last Broadway performance of “Les Miz” in 2003.
“It was an epic closing. The creators came on stage and said it will live on in high schools, and we did a 20-minute version, and it kept growing, with original Broadway cast coming on and alumni coming down the aisles,” says Colin, who brought Roding to the equally epic after-party as his guest.
For the past 14 years, Colin has returned to BHS each spring to help Roding with the spring musical productions.
Colin’s life in performing arts led to earning a bachelor’s degree in theater and speech performance from Wagner College in New York while continuing his showbiz ties. He joined O’Donnell’s staff at R Family Vacations, a LGBT vacation entertainment company, working (and on occasion, sharing the stage) with Broadway stars and pop musicians on cruises and at resorts.
Colin also brought talented friends and Broadway stars to Branford for benefit performances and worked with Branford native and friend, Greg Nobile, to produce Broadway in Branford, a fundraising live show which has become a summer staple.
For a dozen years, Colin found success in his field while living and working in New York City, including a stint with TV’s Wendy Williams Show. Four years ago, he began working with Nobile and Jan Shea’s New York/Branford Broadway production group, Seaview Productions. About three years ago, the company’s new office in town brought Colin back to Branford, and he’s been happily working and living here ever since.
“Dorothy said it best in the Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home,’” says Colin. “There really is no place like Branford. I love this community.”
This past year, a number of offers and opportunities came along, leading to Colin’s solo start with CSE. In May, he directed the world premiere of an anti-bullying musical, Her Song, at the Ivoryton Playhouse. The musical was created by Branford composer Jill Nesi, with songs co-written with Nick Fradiani, Sr. Also earlier this year, Branford-based Tabor Arts signed Colin as Tabor’s artistic director.
Through his work with Tabor, Colin formed Joyful Sounds, a new adult choral group with many BHS alumni and Roding as its musical director.
“There are so many adults in the community that are great singers and great performers, but they have a full-time job. We come together once a week for two hours and it’s great. We’re going to do specific cabarets and have solos and duets and groups,” says Colin. “We just started in October, and we have 10 gigs in December. Everyone wants carolers!”
Joyful Sounds will sing on Sunday, Dec. 10 at the Branford Arts & Cultural Alliance Holiday Market & Open House in Pine Orchard. On Dec. 10, Joyful Sounds also presents Caroling for a Cause at Consign and Design in Branford to benefit Roses for Autism. Details for these appearances and more are at the CSE website.
In another area of the arts, Branford Public Schools has hired Colin to co-direct the 2018 BHS spring musical, working with BHS’s new choral director, Michael Martone (BHS 2001). In March 2018, BHS Performing Arts will present Disney’s Shrek, The Musical. A special advance ticket sale is at BHS on Saturday, Dec. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.
For more than 30 years, Roding directed the musical’s vocal talent, pit orchestra, and choreography while co-director Toni Cartisano directed acting and stage crews. Together, they built one of the foremost high school spring musical forces in the state. Both retired in June 2017.
The weight of the baton being passed is not lost on Colin and Martone. Martone played bass in Roding’s pit orchestras for more than 10 years and starred as Nicely Nicely in the 2001 BHS spring musical Guys and Dolls,” sharing the stage with Colin, among others. The two have been friends ever since, says Colin.
“I can only keep my fingers crossed that Cathyann and Toni are very proud of us,” says Colin. “It’s because of them that we want to help and keep the program going. And I’m hoping, with Colin Sheehan Events, I’ll be able to do a fundraiser for BHS Performing Arts and bring back big Broadway stars.”
Colin said he and Martone are also excited to grow new audiences for the program, which is part of the reason they’ve selected Shrek for their first effort.
“Shrek is such a family-friendly musical. That makes it an easy way to introduce kids to live theater, for the same cost you’d pay to go see a movie,” says Colin. “The more theater that comes to the community, the better.”
Colin’s certainly doing his part. He’ll also direct Tabor’s 2018 spring musical Peter Pan Jr. Beyond that, he’s working on developing a summer theater program for adults and kids, assisted by Roding and Martone. Colin participated as a kid in a past Branford summer theater camp and has never forgotten its impact.
“My goal is to bring back summer theatre in Branford, both for kids and adults,” says Colin.
With a full calendar and a long list of great goals, doing what he loves in Branford is a gift that constantly inspires Colin to help his hometown.
“I’m glad I get to wear my arts hat, but also wear my producing hat and sometimes wear my hosting hat, and just give back to the community,” he says.