Virtual BROADWAY BACKWARDS Breaks Record, Raising $749,555 for BC/EFA and The Center

The event featured Jay Armstrong Johnson, Stephanie J. Block, Deborah Cox, Lea Salonga, Jenn Colella, Amy Adams, James Monroe Iglehart, Cheyenne Jackson & more.

By: Apr. 02, 2021
Virtual BROADWAY BACKWARDS Breaks Record, Raising $749,555 for BC/EFA and The Center

The virtual edition of Broadway Backwards delivered an emotional and exuberant evening of performances and raised a record $749,555 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

The free online event, where gender doesn't matter but love does, can now be viewed at and on the Broadway Cares YouTube channel. It will be available on demand through 11:59 pm Eastern on Saturday, April 3.

Donations made during the stream benefit Broadway Cares, the philanthropic heart of Broadway, and the Center, the heart and home of New York City's LGBTQ+ community. Every dollar donated will help those isolated, stigmatized and affected by HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other critical illnesses receive meals, lifesaving medication, mental health support and other health and wellness services.

The virtual show opened in pandemic New York City, where a young man named Billy, played by Jay Armstrong Johnson, made his way through a slush-laden winter day. Following him on his commute through the city were visions of Stephanie J. Block, Deborah Cox and Lea Salonga, performing a present-day version of Dear Evan Hansen's "Waving Through A Window." As he asks the divas in his mind, "Is anybody waving back at me?," Billy distracts himself from his isolation with wine, prescription medication and an imaginary late-night television show called Up All Night With Colella.

Hosted by Jenn Colella, Up All Night With Colella guides the theater-loving Billy through a deep dive of show tunes ending with a redemptive, star-studded version of "You Will Be Found," also from Dear Evan Hansen.

This song, reflecting Billy's renewed sense of hope, featured performances by Amy Adams, James Monroe Iglehart, Cheyenne Jackson, L Morgan Lee, Raymond J. Lee, Telly Leung, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Ruthie Ann Miles, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jessie Mueller, Kelli O'Hara, Karen Olivo, Bernadette Peters, Sis and Elizabeth Stanley with special appearances by Debbie Allen, Matt Bomer, Brenda Braxton, Len Cariou, Glenn Close, Loretta Devine, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Cherry Jones, Aasif Mandvi, Michael McElroy, Javier Muñoz, Jim Parsons, Eve Plumb, Roslyn Ruff, Tony Yazbeck and journalists Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and Robin Roberts.

Billy's journey to that point included memorable numbers from previous editions of Broadway Backwards:

· Chicago's "Cell Block Tango" launched the show with "murder, mayhem and men" including Joshua Buscher-West, Marty Lawson, Alfie Parker Jr., Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, Alex Ringler and Ryan Steele.

· Darren Criss battled a case of pre-wedding jitters with the rapid-fire patter of Stephen Sondheim's "Getting Married Today" from Company, joined by Ward Billeisen, Michael James Scott and the Broadway Backwards ensemble.

· Broadway legend Chita Rivera razzle-dazzled with Kander and Ebb's "All I Care About is Love" from Chicago surrounded by a bevy of feathery beauties, many from the original 1996 Chicago revival cast.

· Gaelen Gilliland and Eric Petersen created an archetypal 1950s couple preparing for a dinner party in "One Boy" from Bye Bye Birdie, with distractions of the heart provided by Heather Lea Bair and Marty Lawson.

· A lovestruck Bonnie Milligan sought advice from a park bench-sitting stranger in "I Met a Girl" from Bells are Ringing. As an archetypal cynical New Yorker, Debra Monk helped Milligan find herself amid a park full of LGBTQ love connections.

· Tituss Burgess revived his crowd-pleasing 2015 performance of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls with Charl Brown, Jaime Cepero, Steven Cutts, Brandon Pearson, Dennis Stowe and Curtis Wiley.

· Tony Yazbeck showed off impressive tapping skills in a high-spirited "Forget About the Boy" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, joined by Eddie Korbich and brilliant ensemble dancers.

· Ariana DeBose, from the film adaptations of The Prom and the upcoming West Side Story, showed off her impressive dancing skills in a fun and flirty rendition of Bye Bye Birdie's "A Lot of Livin' to Do."

· Cynthia Erivo led a gospel-infused, raise-the-roof rendition of "Make Them Hear You" from Ragtime backed by the Broadway Backwards ensemble.

· Andrew Keenan-Bolger delivered a hilarious take on Kinky Boots' wildly popular "The History of Wrong Guys" complete with a guest appearance by Kinky Boots star Andy Kelso.

· Michael McElroy and Bryan Terrell Clark pondered the question "What About Love?" in a gorgeous and heartfelt rendition of the duet from The Color Purple.

Colella's guided tour through the Broadway Backwards canon also included stunning solos by Len Cariou ("The Party's Over" from Bells Are Ringing), Carolee Carmello ("Pity the Child" from Chess) and Andrew Rannells ("The Man That Got Away" from A Star is Born). Through the journey, Colella helped Billy let go of the sadness his isolation has brought upon and to be "unapologetically, proudly you."

The stream also featured an introduction by Chasten Buttigieg and special appeals by Ariana DeBose, Debra Messing, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tony Shalhoub and Ben Vereen.

The full company included Danyel Fulton, Sam Gravitte, Shelon Henry, Diana Huey, Aaron Libby, Nathan Lucrezio, Melinda Porto, Shelby Ringdahl, Vishal Vaidya and Blake Zolfo.

Creator Robert Bartley returned as writer and director for this virtual version of the show. He was joined by Mary-Mitchell Campbell as music supervisor, Ted Arthur as music director and Eamon Foley as director of photography and video editor. Joshua Buscher-West joined as associate director, Nick Connors as orchestrator, Benedict Braxton-Smith as music producer and audio engineer, Matt Kraus as sound designer, Tyler Milliron as VFX designer, Samantha Rodriguez as costume designer and Larry Smiglewski as stage manager, with special thanks to Chad Eric Murnane, CSA, and Mark Brandon, CSA, at Binder Casting.

What began as a small, grassroots concert performed at The Center in 2006 quickly grew into a highly anticipated event presented in Broadway's best theaters. The record total this year, which marked the 15th edition of Broadway Backwards, surpassed the previous record of $704,491, which was set at the last in-person version of the show in 2019. Last year's performance was canceled just days before the show when Broadway shut down.

The presenting sponsor of this year's Broadway Backwards is Morgan Stanley. The event also is generously sponsored by The New York Times and WarnerMedia. The co-chairs of the Broadway Backwards host committee are Marc Levine, Doug Nieters, Stephen Paine and Jeffrey Trachtman.

This year's Broadway Backwards reflected the isolation, despair and challenges so many face on a daily basis, which have only been heightened by the pandemic. If you or someone you know needs help, there is 24/7, free and confidential support at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. For young people in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, The Trevor Project's Trevor Lifeline is available at 866.488.7386.

Watch below!


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