A little girl lost too soon still moves the Auburn community.
When 7-year-old Avery Huffman succumbed to cancer more than two years ago, her death jolted family and friends.
It really shook inspiring actress and director McKenna Webb.
The Auburn Riverside High School student wanted to honor the girl and help the Huffman family, whose foundation is driven today to find a cure for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), the deadly form of pediatric brain cancer that Avery courageously fought for 7½ months.
Avery’s fight inspired Webb, a Miss Auburn’s Outstanding Teen finalist in 2016, to compete for Avery and adopt DIPG awareness as her platform in the pageant.
Avery and Webb were pals, with a lot in common.
“I realized she liked musicals, too,” Webb said. Both attended Lakeland Hills Elementary School.
After Avery’s death, Webb wanted to continue her relationship with the Huffmans and her work with the foundation.
To spread DIPG awareness and raise funds to fight the disease, Webb – with the support of the arts community – created, produced, directed and performed in the inaugural Broadway for #BrAvery event last year. The show nearly sold out the Auburn Riverside Theater (ART) and raised more than $8,000 for the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation. It also drew rave reviews.
So successful was the show that Webb and her supporters are doing it again.
Curtains open at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at the ART stage, 501 Oravetz Road SE. Local talent – a cast of more than 75 strong – will perform 28 acts of Broadway hits, both classic and new, uplifting numbers. The show – done in partnership with the Auburn Riverside High School’s International Thespian Society – presents a balance of solos, duets, groups and performances from visiting dance companies.
Webb’s passion to produce and direct a massive musical has impressed many people.
“I was just blown away,” said Brandon Huffman, Avery’s father and co-founder of the foundation. “We are so touched and honored to have the event in Avery’s name.”
Webb, 17, a junior at Auburn Riverside, has performed in more than 20 musicals and plays throughout the Seattle area and participated in the prestigious Summer Musical Theater Institute at Wagner College in New York.
“I realized I can do this,” Webb said of her work back East. “This is somewhere that I want to be. I feel like this is the right place for me, and making it in musical theater is not as far-fetched as some people on the West Coast may think. It definitely gave me more hope that I had before.”
Webb means to follow her heart for the arts, applying to Ivy League schools, with intentions of also studying computer science. All this, and she continues to follow a busy schedule of putting on another show for the community. The second annual program, from concept to auditions and rehearsals, has been a project six months in the making.
“It’s hard, definitely, being a student, an actor and every other hat I put on,” Webb said. “It’s definitely taught me a lot about management and communication.”
This year, Webb has received more help in producing the show.
“Right when the show ended (last year), people wanted to be part of this,” she said. “This year I didn’t have to ask anyone at all. People came to me and wanted to be a part of it. I love how much involvement has come … this year.”
Dean Webb said his daughter is determined to keep a good thing going.
“It’s a wonderful story of how the community comes together, especially the children, to support this great cause and to honor the courage of Avery Huffman,” he said.
Brandon Huffman has been awestruck by the student-led production – all to honor Avery.
“It’s bittersweet in a sense because some of Avery’s friends are in the musical,” he said. “There should be no musical in a sense because we would rather have (Avery) here with us. Then you see the little kids up there who were her friends (and with whom) she should be in these acts … and that’s the hard part. But knowing that this show is in her honor … and seeing it being led by her peers and other students … makes it even more touching for us.”
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students (preschool through high school). Pre-sale tickets can be purchased at Auburn Riverside High School on Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.