Broadway Backwards 7, the once-a-year celebration of the gay and lesbian community, our friends and families, raised a record-breaking $329,000 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.
The sold-out show on March 5, 2012, left the audience cheering 20 unforgettable performances by stars from Broadway and television, lead by Tony Award-winner and Broadway’s legendary leading lady Betty Buckley, Tony winners LaChanze and Len Cariou, this year’s best actor Tony nominee Andrew Rannells, Emmy-winning comedian Bruce Vilanch and television icon George Takei.
Featured throughout the show were two-time Tony nominee Robin De Jesús, from In The Heights and La Cage Aux Folles, and Jason Michael Snow, from the smash hit The Book of Mormon, in a romantic storyline that framed the evening’s entertainment.
Broadway Backwards 7 was presented this year in the historic and beautifully restored Al Hirschfeld Theatre, currently home to the hit revival How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Not just another night on Broadway, Broadway Backwards 7 featured a delightful 65-person cast of singers and dancers, plus a live orchestra, performing the great songs of musical theatre with a twist: women sang songs originally written for men and men sang songs written for women. By keeping the lyrics intact, including the original pronouns, each song took on a new dimension.
Tony Award-winner Betty Buckley returned to the Broadway stage for an emotional medley of songs from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. The hushed audience hung on every dramatic note as Buckley revisited “Not While I’m Around,” “Johanna” and “My Friends.”
Act One opened with Robin De Jesús’ charming rendition of “All I Want Is a Room Somewhere” from My Fair Lady and closed with the defiant, high-energy anthem “I Just Want to Dance” from Jerry Springer: The Opera, sung by Jason Michael Snow and featuring Cicily Daniels.
Jenn Colella and Jackie Hoffman turned the Damn Yankees showstopper “The Game” into an all-female vow to stay away from “booze and broads,” with a special cameo appearance and pep talk by “Coach” and Star Trek favorite George Takei.
The romantic balcony duet from West Side Story once again thrilled an audience as two of Broadway’s loveliest leading ladies, Sierra Boggess and Elizabeth Stanley, together sang Bernstein/Sondheim extraordinary duet ”Tonight” as it’s surely never been heard before.
Andrew Rannells brought the best of Funny Girl to a Broadway stage after all this season with a smooth and seductive rendition of “The Music That Makes Me Dance.”
Harvey Evans and Jim Brochu were met with thunderous applause after a flirtatious and whimsically sweet vaudeville turn in “It’s Never Too Late to Fall In Love” from The Boy Friend.
Bryan Batt took a comedic romp through “Life with Harold” from The Full Monty as he tried to keep focus on the wonderful attributes of his husband, Harold, amid the distractions of handsome young shoppers along Fifth Avenue.
Tony Award-winner Len Cariou, the original Sweeney Todd who’s now starring on CBS’ “Blue Bloods,” gave a sensitive rendition of the King and I standard “Something Wonderful”.
Acclaimed newcomer Jessie Mueller brought the amazing vocals that won over hearts late last year in her Broadway debut in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as brought a new dimension to two numbers from the show, originally sung by Harry Connick Jr., “She Wasn’t You” and “Come Back to Me.”
The show’s inspiring, gospel-fueled finale of “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles triggered a rapturous standing ovation. This bring-down-the-house rendition was led by Shawna Hamic, currently garnering raves as Madame Thénardier in the 25th anniversary national touring production of Les Misérables, and backed by the show’s ensemble of several dozen Broadway singers and dancers.
Other featured performers included audience favorites Charles Busch, Dan Butler, Mario Cantone, Nancy Dussault, Anthony Federov, Barrett Foa, Telly Leung and Brian Charles Rooney. All standouts in an evening of stellar performances.
Creator Robert Bartley directed and choreographed with music direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell. The creative team also included co-choreographers Stephanie Klemons and Patrick O’Neill, lighting designer Ryan O’Gara and costume designer Philip Heckman with Matthew DiCarlo serving as production stage manager and leading a team of 16 first-class stage managers.
Prior to the finale, Robert DeFrank, vice president of human resources at Lifetime Networks, joined Bartley and Vilanch onstage to present a check from Lifetime, the evening’s presenting sponsor, in the amount of $50,000 to Broadway Cares and the Center.
Broadway Backwards began as a concert performed at the LGBT Center in 2006. In subsequent years, the event grew quickly, eventually being presented by the Center Off-Broadway at 37 Arts and at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre. In 2010, BC/EFA assumed production of the event, first presenting it at the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center and last year at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. Proceeds are shared between Broadway Cares and the Center, one of BC/EFA’s earliest and long-standing grantees.
The one-night-only event continues to grow in popularity and success in supporting the work of both Broadway Cares and the Center. This year’s $329,000 gross topped last year’s record-breaking $281,200 which had toppled the previous year’s total of $186,700.
In these days of diminishing government support and resources, Broadway Backwards brings together two very different organizations, each with their own long, rich histories. It’s proof for social service and fundraising organizations everywhere of the power of collaboration and the benefits of sharing turf for maximum impact.
In addition to Presenting Sponsor Lifetime Networks, Broadway Backwards 7 received generous support from HBO, The New York Times, United Airlines, DIRECTV, Here!, John’s, Marriott Marquis, Mercer, Bloomberg, Get Gay Chauffeur and Next Magazine.
Download Broadway Backwards photos by Peter James Zielinski
Tom Kirdahy, Co-chair
Doug Nieters & Bill Lagaret
Jay Lesiger, Co-chair
Kenneth V. Harkins
Edward J. Davis & Thomas D. Phillips
Michael P. Harrell
Lisa E. Davis & Mark Merriman
Nancy Kellogg-Gray & Samantha Kennedy
Drew Desky & Dane Levens
Robert J. Kunikoff
Sam & Hannah Shipley
Mitch Draizin & Philippe Brugere-Trelat
Ted Snowdon & Duffy Violante
Ken Fakler & Dan Stone
McDermott Will & Emery, Lisa Linsky
Wendy Miller & Patricia Wiley
Scott Widmeyer & Alan Yount
Dale Joan Young