BROADWAY BACKWARDS 2018 Raises Over A Half A Million Dollars
Fundraising records and gender norms alike were smashed by stars of stage, screen and pop music on April 2, 2018, at this year's inclusive, dynamic and loving Broadway Backwards.
The 13th annual edition of the show, which celebrates the LGBTQ community through gender-reversed renditions of beloved showtunes, raised an incredible $680,273 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City. The show was produced by Broadway Cares.
Broadway Backwards (#BroadwayBackwards) featured a cast of 62 performing 19 numbers that spanned from heart-wrenching to hilarious. They were backed by a live, 12-piece onstage orchestra at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, home to the Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots.
The evening began with an activist tone when a trio of anti-gay protesters faced off with revelers from a pride march. Luckily, Shawna Hamic (The Last Ship) and Christian Dante White (Hello, Dolly!), backed by an ensemble of diverse singers and dancers, shut them down, ultimately inviting the converted protesters and the audience to join in "A Wild, Wild Party" from The Wild Party. The high-spirited opening number was choreographed by Chaz Wolcott.
Alex Newell, star of Once on this Island and TV's Glee, closed the show with his inimitable vocal range on full display in "This Is Me," the Oscar-nominated song from The Greatest Showman written by Dear Evan Hansen Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. With support from a chorus of inspirational voices and powerful choreography that lifted the spirits of all involved, Newell's captivating voice and passionate performance brought the audience to its feet.
Ethan Slater, the critically acclaimed actor in the titular role in SpongeBob SquarePants, turned a trendy Brooklyn party upside-down in an energetic performance of "The Lady is a Tramp" from Babes in Arms. The ensemble of fussy partygoers initially distanced themselves from their outsider guest before embracing the nimble Slater, lifting and flipping him in a flurry of glitter and confetti.
One of Slater's SpongeBob costars, Gaelen Gilliland, joined Escape to Margaritaville's Eric Petersen to create an archetypal 1950s couple preparing for a dinner party in "One Boy" from Bye Bye Birdie. When their attractive neighbors, played by Heather Lea Bair and Marty Lawson, arrive, the duo hilariously gave into temptation as Gilliland partnered with Bair and Peterson with Lawson.
When Jay Armstrong Johnson (On the Town) unexpectedly found himself in the apartment of Tony Award winner John Glover, Johnson excitedly launched into "If My Friends Could See Me Now" from Sweet Charity. Johnson impressively performed the original, iconic Bob Fosse choreography, recreated for Johnson by Mimi Quillin.
The evening featured an array of unforgettable solos and duets:
Tony Award winner and television icon Andrea Martin flexed her incomparable comedy muscles in a riotous rendition of "My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada" from Avenue Q.
Telly Leung (Aladdin) and Taylor Trensch (Dear Evan Hansen) transformed "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" from Side Show from a song between sisters to a lovers' duet. The couple wondered who will love them despite their flaws and insecurities, ultimately finding that love in each other.
Emmy Award nominee and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Tituss Burgess left the audience spellbound with his touching rendition of "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe" from Cabin in the Sky.
Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton) and Michael McElroy (Sunday in the Park with George) filled the Al Hirschfeld Theatre with romance and warmth as they tenderly performed The Color Purple's "What About Love?"
Anneliese Van Der Pol (Beauty and the Beast, TV's That's So Raven) delivered a rapturous version of "She Touched Me" from Drat! The Cat!.
Noah Galvin (Dear Evan Hansen) and Nico Tortorella (TV's Younger) hilariously sang through a late-night couple's quarrel in "Therapy" from Tick, Tick...Boom!. The pair sparred back and forth in a swift patter until they resolved to sort it out in therapy the following day.
New Kids on the Block's Joey McIntyre belted Funny Girl's "Don't Rain on My Parade", turning it into an LGBTQ anthem as he ultimately stripped off his jacket to reveal a T-shirt reading "Equality."
Broadway favorite Betsy Wolfe (Waitress) belted her heart out in a breathtaking performance of the Dear Evan Hansen hit "Waving Through a Window."
Broadway legend and Tony Award winner Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd, TV's Blue Bloods) delivered a moving rendition of "And I Was Beautiful" from Dear World.
Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck (Prince of Broadway) gave an LGBTQ twist to a sweet favorite when he gushed about a guy who brought him a tasty treat in "Vanilla Ice Cream" from She Loves Me.
Will Swenson (Jerry Springer - The Opera) took the audience back to their high school days of crushes and curfews with "Joey is a Punk Rocker" from Joe Iconis' The Black Suits, as he fawned over his school's resident bad boy.
The evening was hosted by Broadway star and longtime friend of Broadway Cares Julie Halston, who brought her signature brand of comedy and creativity to the stage. Halston set aside her hosting hat momentarily to contemplate her plan for finding a wife in "Reviewing the Situation" from Oliver!.
Special guest Academy Award winner Hayley Mills (Pollyanna, The Parent Trap), who's currently appearing in Off-Broadway's Party Face, thanked the audience and performers for their invaluable support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Center.
Broadway Backwards creator Robert Bartley wrote and directed this year's show. Adam Roberts was associate director. The show featured choreography by Bartley, Roberts, Quillin and Wolcott. Mary-Mitchell Campbell served as music supervisor, Laura Bergquist was music director and Christopher D. Littlefield was associate music director. The creative team included lighting designer Jake DeGroot, costume designers Jess Gersz and Vanessa Leuck and sound designer Matt Berman. Jeff Brancato was production stage manager.
What began as a small, grassroots concert performed in the community room at The Center in 2006 has grown into a highly anticipated event presented in one of Broadway's most beautiful theatres. In its 13 editions, Broadway Backwards has raised more than $4.1 million for Broadway Cares and The Center.
Major sponsors of Broadway Backwards included Celebrity Cruises, Facebook, 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 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS 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 Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway Cares also awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, providing lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling and emergency assistance.
About The Center
Established in 1983, New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center empowers people to lead healthy, successful lives. The Center celebrates diversity and advocates for justice and opportunity. 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. To learn more about our work, please visit gaycenter.org.
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