BROADWAY BACKWARDS Hits New Record With Over $423,000 Raised for BC/EFA and The Center
Broadway's best filled a sold-out Al Hirschfeld Theatre with laughter, tears and cheers during the unforgettable ninth annual edition of Broadway Backwards on Monday, March 24, 2014, raising a record-breaking $423,182 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.
This year's staggering total surpassed the previous record of $347,060, set last year.
The standing-room-only show, hysterically hosted by Tony Award winner Julie White and adorable newcomer Bebe Wood, featured a bevy of show-stopping performances, including memorable star turns by Jonathan Groff, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Beth Leavel, Norm Lewis, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells, Patricia Morison, the original "Kate" in Kiss Me, Kate who just turned 99 years old, and more.
Broadway Backwards (#bwaybackwards) is an annual celebration where gays and lesbians see their stories told through the great songs of musical theatre, sung by their favorite Broadway performers. It is produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and was presented this year in the historic Hirschfeld Theatre, currently home to the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots.
This year's edition of Broadway Backwards featured a talented 51-person cast and onstage orchestra. Some highlights from this year's show:
· Groff and Rannells each showed sentimental sides that left audience members in tears. Groff tenderly performed "I Got Lost in His Arms" from Annie Get Your Gun combined with "Goodnight My Someone" from Music Man. Rannells lit up the room with a stunning rendition of "The Man That Got Away" from A Star is Born.
· Leavel was giddy with excitement at the prospect of sharing a common interest with a new love in a high-spirited version of "She Likes Basketball" from Promises, Promises.
· Morison brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation after her witty and flawless take on "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from Kiss Me Kate. Morison, who turned 99 just a few days ago, soaked in the adoration and stole hearts with her humility.
· Lewis followed Morison to bring the first act to a rousing close as he received a rapturous ovation for his rendition "Home" from The Wiz, simply standing in a center stage spotlight and filling the house with his rich baritone voice.
· Cass Morgan and Debra Monk, longtime friends and original cast members and co-authors of Pump Boys and Dinettes, reunited as a humorously bickering couple singing "I Still Get Jealous" from High Button Shoes.
· Robin De Jesús declared that modern man was not his cup of tea and promptly stripped six dapper-dressed dancers down to loin clothes for an energetic "Prehistoric Man" from On the Town.
· Porter, currently burning up the Hirschfeld stage with his acclaimed Tony Award-winning performance in the smash hit Kinky Boots, turned the show upside down with his powerhouse rendition of Kander and Ebb's "But The World Goes 'Round" from his soon-to-be released CD "Billy's Back on Broadway."
· With a hat tip to the Hirschfeld's year-round residents, Keenan-Bolger delivered a fierce rendition of Kinky Boots' wildly popular "The History of Wrong Guys" complete with a guest appearance by Kinky Boots co-star Andy Kelso.
· With "Hold On" from The Secret Garden, Ken Page, backed by the angelic voices of the ensemble, closed the evening by encouraging those who are struggling or discouraged to: "Hold on. It's this day, not you, that's bound to go away!"
Other outstanding performances included: Uzo Aduba and Rachel Bay Jones with a powerful version of "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden; Bryan Batt opened the show with "I Can Hear the Bells" from Hairspray, set among the infamous characters of Times Square and the men of his dreams; Stephanie J. Block with "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George; Colin Hanlon playing matchmaker for Stephen Bienskie and Max von Essen in "Been a Long Day" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Jose Llana and Kyle Dean Massey with the romantic duet "I Have Dreamed" from The King and I; Roger Rees, after a witty and heartfelt introduction by his husband, Rick Elice, performing "Could I Leave You" from Follies; and John Tartaglia pining for his soldier boyfriend through text messages in an updated version of "Freddy My Love" from Grease.
Creator Robert Bartley directed and choreographed, with additional choreography by Amy Jones and Melissa Rae Mahon. Mary-Mitchell Campbell served as music supervisor with Tim Rosser as music director. The creative team included lighting designer Philip S. Rosenberg, costume designer Philip Heckman and sound designer Pitsch Karrer.
Broadway Backwards began as a grassroots concert performed at the Center in 2006. In subsequent years, the event grew quickly, performing Off-Broadway and in Broadway theaters the last four years. The one-night-only event continues to grow in popularity and success as well, supporting the work of Broadway Cares and the Center.
The presenting sponsor of Broadway Backwards is Lifetime Networks with generous support from The New York Times and United Airlines.
ABOUT BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation's leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $250 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.
Broadway Cares awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide and is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.
For more information, please visit Broadway Cares online at broadwaycares.org, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/BCEFA, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BCEFA, watch us on YouTube at youtube.com/BCEFAtv, pin us on Pinterest at pinterest.com/BCEFA and tag us on Instagram at instagram.com/BCEFA.
ABOUT THE CENTER: Established in 1983, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center is at the heart of the LGBT community in New York City, providing quality health and wellness programs in a welcoming space that fosters connections and celebrates our cultural contributions. We strive to serve the LGBT community with a full-service, multi-faceted approach to programming, from hosting arts and entertainment events, advocacy groups and family gatherings to offering youth, recovery and overall wellness programs. Each year, The Center welcomes more than 300,000 visits to our building in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan from people who engage in our life-changing and life-saving activities. We are proud to be your community Center. To learn more about our work, please visit gaycenter.org.
Photo Credit: Linda Lenzi