BroadwayWorld Turns 20 With Starry Concert

The Sony Hall concert benefited Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

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Last night, BroadwayWorld celebrated its 20th anniversary with a concert at Sony Hall. The show, which benefited Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, took over a year to plan.

"In April of 2022, I called in a long-held promise with one of my best friends, director Richard Jay-Alexander, and made sure he was still on board to helm the night," said BroadwayWorld founder Robert Diamond. "Richard says this is his last benefit. If that's true, I'm glad it's for us!"

Diamond said the first calls were to line up the venue. Prior BroadwayWorld concerts had taken place at Joe's Pub, but this time a larger venue was needed. After some touring of locations, Sony Hall was chosen for, as Diamond put it, "its location, size, tech and glamour."

Then came the cast selection. When you're the largest theater website in the world, there are a lot of people who will happily come and celebrate you. But Diamond and Alexander wanted to make sure the lineup was carefully curated.

"We looked back through stars that we worked with previously--be it on concerts, pandemic projects like Next on Stage, Stage Door and BroadwayWorld Events," Diamond stated. "For many of the night's performers, we've had the pleasure of documenting their careers for the last two decades and then we expanded from there to include some new friends too."

Having the talent isn't everything. There was sponsorship to line up. An event like this costs tens of thousands of dollars, especially post-pandemic when costs have increased exponentially (and less people work for free). Sponsors for the night were BroadwayHD, the Museum of Broadway, New York Hilton and more. It was also arranged for the Mayor's Office to proclaim May 21, 2023 BroadwayWorld Day.

The cast ended up including Shoshana Bean, Liz Callaway, Mario Cantone, Jenn Colella, Eden Espinosa, Myles Frost, Debbie Gibson, Olivia Elease Hardy, Brittney Johnson, Constantine Maroulis, Donna McKechie, Orfeh, Hugh Panaro, Randy Rainbow, Marc Shaiman, Chris Sieber, Blair St. Clair, Paulo Szot, Elizabeth Teeter, Natalie Toro (with support from Kurt Domoney and Josh Walden) and Jessica Vosk. Of course BroadwayWorld's own Richard Ridge had to host, but he nicely got someone pretty iconic to support him--the legendary Chita Rivera agreed to co-host.

"When I finished WICKED and wanted to pursue my own music, it was met with a lot of resistance," said Bean yesterday afternoon, previewing comments she would make during the event. "When I wanted to promote my own music and shows, things that weren't theatrically based, Robert was there for me. I'll never forget the people who supported me being able to be more than one thing. So I'll always and forever show up for Robert and BroadwayWorld."

Wednesday and Thursday before the concert, many of the cast rehearsed with Musical Director Kevin Stites. Friday some came back to rehearse with the full band. Sunday was soundcheck starting at 2pm. For the cast, it was the first time onstage at Sony Hall. Hardy went first because she had a 3pm matinee at KIMBERLY AKIMBO-and the levels were naturally most off for her. (Luckily, by the end, her performance turned out so well, she received a standing ovation at the event after singing "I Am Changing" from DREAMGIRLS.) In addition to simply checking the sound, lighting was set and Alexander staged certain numbers. For example, Orfeh and Maroulis sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart" together, so some coordination was necessary there. There was less than an hour after that all was done before the cocktail party and the event.

Then the event happened and there was a reminder of why we do this all: for fans of the theater. Several performers talked about reading BroadwayWorld as a fan or being alerted to things on the message boards. Additionally, as part of the event, BroadwayWorld ran a "Are you BroadwayWorld's biggest fan?" contest. The winner, Nicole Quintana, is a high school teacher in Florida who teaches musical theater, theater history and costume, hair and makeup.

"When BroadwayWorld started I had just become a teacher and I was looking for things to add to my lesson plans," she said after the event. "I started reading the articles and I would use them as current events. I look at the games and the grosses. We talk a lot about what is Broadway or off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway and BroadwayWorld has really inspired a lot of that. It means so much to me."



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