Laura Benanti tells PEOPLE about her new star-studded bilingual children’s album called Singing You Home — Children’s Songs for Family Reunification

By Dave Quinn
October 26, 2018 03:15 PM
Advertisement

Like many of Americans, Laura Benanti stood by with horror as thousands of migrant children were torn away from their parents and held in detainment centers at the U.S./Mexico border due to President Trump’s since-reversed “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

“I was so unbelievably distraught, and felt so fractured and terrified. I was just crying and crying and crying,” she tells PEOPLE. “Do you remember that image of the little girl looking up, sobbing? I’ve seen my 1½-year-old daughter Ella make that face so many times. And I just thought, ‘What would I do if this were my child?’ ”

So Benanti got to work. Using her Rolodex of star-studded friends for support, the Tony-winning actress conceived and co-produced a new bilingual children’s album called Singing You Home — Children’s Songs for Family Reunification.

All proceeds go to non-profit organizations RAICES and ASTEP, which work to reunite and support families affected by the crisis.

“I started thinking, ‘I can put 1 percent of my energy into a hundred things or I can put a hundred percent of my energy into this one thing,’ ” Benanti says. “I’m really proud of it. It might be the thing I’m most proud of right now, other than being Ella’s mom.”

Ghostlight Records

Out today, the albumfeatures seven songs — some traditional and some new — and most sung in both English and Spanish.

A slew of celebrity talent appear including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mandy Gonzalez; Audra McDonald and Jason Robert Brown, Kristin Chenoweth’ Cynthia Erivo; Ingrid Michaelson and Ana Villafañe, and Josh Groban and Idina Menzel — who sing a duet co-written by Groban, Jochem Van Der Saag, and Dave Matthews.

Benanti also sings on the record too, in duet with Isabella Preston. The Broadway Baby Mamas provide backup vocals. Broadway musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Lynn Pinto help co-produce.

All artists, musicians, technicians and recording studios donated their time and talents to the project. “Everyone chipped in for free,” Benanti said. “Not one single person who sang on the record, played on the record, or worked on the record in any way is receiving money from this – which is unheard of in this industry. It’s remarkable.”

Laura Benanti
Desiree Navarro/WireImage

RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) — the largest pro bono immigration legal services provider in Texas — will get 85 percent of the album’s profits while 15 percent will go to ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), who delivers after-school workshops and summer camps for young people affected by refugee and unaccompanied minor status, the justice system, homelessness, HIV/AIDS and systemic poverty in New York City.

Most importantly, Singing You Home — Children’s Songs for Family Reunification will be sent to facilities housing still-separated children. “The hope is that it might sooth them on multiple levels,” Benanti says. “They’ll be able to not only hear music in their own native language, but hear people thinking and singing just for them and know that this music is going towards getting them back to their families.”

“I truly believe we have to treat people the way we would hope to be treated,” she adds. “If Ella were torn for me from some horrendous reason, I would hope that a group of people would get together to reunite us as soon as possible.”

RELATED VIDEO: Mother Describes Being Separated From Young Son At Mexico Border

Controversy over Trump’s policy erupted over the summer when thousands of children were separated from their families and put detention centers.

In June, the president signed an order ending separations — though more than four months later, hundreds of those children still remain estranged, with more than two-thirds of their parents deported.