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Photos: Bernadette Peters, Michael R, Jackson, Matt Doyle and More Hit the Stage for BROADWAY BACKWARDS 2022

The evening also featured performances from Lauren Patten, Jenn Colella, Lillias White, George Salazar, Lena Hall and more!

The best of Broadway came together to salute love in all forms on May 23, 2022, singing and dancing in celebration of LGBTQ+ stories and musical theater at the first live performance of Broadway Backwards since 2019.

The standing-room-only show raised a record $758,582 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City. The annual event was produced by Broadway Cares.

Jenn Colella (Come From Away) returned as host, after leading the last in-person Broadway Backwards in 2019 and appearing on screen in the 2021 virtual event. A cast of 86 performers made theater magic with a 13-piece orchestra, filling Disney's New Amsterdam Theatre.

The evening kicked off with a scorching rendition of "Le Jazz Hot" from Victor/Victoria, performed by 2022 Tony Award nominee Matt Doyle (Company), stepping into Julie Andrews' famous shoes. With a sizzling ensemble of Broadway Backwards dancers, the number started the night with electric energy.

Closing the evening was 2022 Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango (Paradise Square) bringing the house down with Broadway Inspirational Voices in their performance of Allen Rene Louis' stirring arrangement of Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" from Company. Starting with rapid-fire spoken word that revisited painful moments and conflict of the last two years, the number erupted into a celebration of being present and seen.

Broadway legend and three-time Tony recipient Bernadette Peters soared above a sexy, big band rendition of "Nothing Like a Dame" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Peters dazzled with her immeasurable charm and instantly recognizable voice as she longed for that one person that "there ain't no substitute for." The audience responded with a standing ovation for Peters.

The audience also roared with approval for Alexandra Billings' (Wicked) take on the typically invisible "Mr. Cellophane" from Kander and Ebb's Chicago. Billings began with a personal and heart-wrenching monologue sharing that when she was on the brink of suicide in the late 1970s, she saw transgender women on TV and, for the first time, realized, "there I am!" Her final verse of the song flipped the well-known lyrics to end with "everyone will know I'm there," which garnered Billings a standing ovation.

Big production numbers inspired laughter and joy throughout the packed New Amsterdam Theatre:

Mrs. Doubtfire's J. Harrison Ghee sashayed to Z Infante's (Kiss My Aztec) rescue as their fabulous Fairy Godperson. Infante's distant stepmother, played by Backwards veteran Janelle Farias Sando, barraged them with insults and jeers, comparing them to "fluffy little nobodies who just want to change who they are." Ghee magically appeared and, singing an upbeat arrangement of "Impossible" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, helped Infante come to embrace their true self.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Tuck Everlasting) swept the audience off its feet in a cheerful reinvention of "He Plays the Violin" from 1776. Rather than pining for Thomas Jefferson, Keenan-Bolger's love interest was a dreamy violin student with skill to spare, played by Dominic Dorset. Romance bloomed in this joyous number under the watchful eye of the music teacher, Bill Nolte (Waitress, Cats).

MiMi Scardulla (A Beautiful Noise) was faced with the age-old question: can she change her party gal ways to marry her partner, or will she leave her at the altar? Scardulla answered this in "Get Me to the Church on Time'' from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, backed by Aaron Craven, Kate Coffey, Danielle Erin Rhodes, Janelle Farias Sando and the character-rich Broadway Backwards ensemble.

The evening featured an array of unforgettable solos and duets, too:

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, composer and 2022 Tony nominee Michael R. Jackson, creator of the breakout Broadway musical A Strange Loop, picked up the microphone himself to dream of his unremarkable but true love in "Bill" from Showboat.

2022 Tony nominee Sidney DuPont (Paradise Square) wowed with his stellar vocals in "The Man That Got Away" from A Star Is Born, his voice booming to the back of the mezzanine.

Putting her hosting mic aside, Colella and Tony winner Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill) sang an intimate and glorious rendition of "The Next Ten Minutes" from Tony winner Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, each equally matched note for note in vocal prowess.

Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch) and Mary Testa (Oklahoma!) bantered and bickered like a modern-day Tevye and Golde about why they hadn't gotten legally married yet in a revamped rendition of Fiddler on the Roof's "Do You Love Me?"

Baritones were booming as John Riddle (Frozen, Phantom of the Opera) brought his boyfriend, played by Company's Claybourne Elder, home to meet his family (Veanne Cox, Nick Kohn and Mallory Michaellann) in a reinvisioned version of "One Second and a Million Miles" from The Bridges of Madison County. Alienated from his family, Riddle found solace and support in Elder during this impressive showcase of Tony winner Jason Robert Brown's duet.

Tony winner Lillias White (The Life, Fela!) found Ernie Pruneda (Sister Act) under attack by two bullies shouting anti-queer slurs. White answered in song with a spectacular duet of "Stand By Me," a beautiful example that love and support will lift those in need.

Be More Chill's George Salazar showcased his charming vocals and vulnerability, searching for his own sweet oasis in "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors.

Kept husband Brandon Uranowitz (Falsettos) gave a death-defying performance of "Just One Step" from Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World, teetering on the edge of a New York City balcony on the 57th floor.

Tony winner BD Wong (Pacific Overtures) was on the verge of a nervous breakdown while trying desperately to get ahold of best friend Pepa in "Model Behavior" from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Broadway mainstay Ken Page (The Wiz, Cats) owned center stage when he delivered a velvety version of Fats Waller's "Squeeze Me," teasing with "when you kiss me, daddy, I stay kissed." His sultry rendition of the Ain't Misbehavin' classic was touchingly dedicated to the late Armelia McQueen, who originated the song on Broadway and passed away in 2020.

Sweeney Todd's "Johanna," written by Stephen Sondheim, was given a rocker redo by stellar vocalist and Tony winner Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch).

Sondheim's iconic ballad from A Little Night Music, "Send In The Clowns," was sung with ease and empathy by Tony winner Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd and TV's Blue Bloods), who's performed in every Broadway Backwards since its second year.

Tony winner Danny Burstein made a special appearance to discuss the impact of supporting the lifesaving work of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Center.

Broadway Backwards creator Robert Bartley wrote and directed this year's return to the stage alongside associate director Adam Roberts. Bartley and Roberts joined James Kinney and Joshua Buscher-West in choreographing the show. Mary-Mitchell Campbell served as music supervisor; Ted Arthur was music director with Nicholas Connors and Nick Wilders as associate music directors. The creative team included lighting design by Craig Stelzenmuller, costume design by Tyler Carlton Williams, Jeff Johnson-Doherty, John Kristiansen and Natalie Loveland, prop design by Jenna Snyder and Alexander Wylie and sound design by Marie Renee Foucher. Jeff Brancato was production supervisor and Gregory R. Covert was production stage manager. Binder Casting's Mark Brandon and Chad Eric Murnane served as casting consultants.

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 theaters. In its 16 editions, Broadway Backwards has raised $6.3 million for Broadway Cares and The Center.

The 2020 performance of Broadway Backwards was canceled just days before the show when Broadway shut down. In 2021, the show persevered through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and presented a virtual show of newly filmed musical pieces and a collection of favorite numbers from past Backwards editions, reaching out to those struggling with isolation during the theatrical shutdown. The stream was viewed by more than 140,000 Broadways fans around the country and raised a then-record $749,555.

For more information, please visit Broadway Cares online at broadwaycares.org.

Photo Credit: Curtis Brown



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