What started as a bit of “nun fun” over a decade ago has grown into a theater-lover’s “must-have” holiday gift – and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Broadway Cares along the way.
The festively tuneful CD Carols for a Cure , now in its 12th edition, has been featured in USA Today and on countless Websites, in dozens of local newspapers and on radio programs from New Mexico to Georgia. On December 15, KPBX 91.1 in Spokane, WA, will devote a full hour to the CD on its Broadway-themed morning show “The Matinee.”
Meanwhile, critical response to the 2010 version has been universally enthusiastic, with David Byrne of The Windy City Times writing: “With a joyous blend of humor, heartfelt moments and seasonal standards, the 12th installment of Broadway’s Carols for a Cure certainly will add a jolly vibe to any holiday playlist…”
Exclusive Look Inside BC/EFA’s “Carols for a Cure” Recording Sessions compliments of Playbill.com
Available through Broadway Cares’ online store and sold during the fall audience appeals that follow participating Broadway, off-Broadway and national touring shows, this year’s two-CD set features songs performed by cast members of almost every current Broadway show. Celebrity guests include the likes of Bernadette Peters, Kelsey Grammer, Douglas Hodge, Carole Shelley, Jackie Hoffman, Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley, Hunter Foster, Andy Carl, Sebastian Arcelus and Amy Spanger. Or, in the words of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Howard Shapiro: “A boggling collection of talent…”
Creator/producer Lynn Pinto says Carols originated as a bit of a lark when she was appearing on Broadway in the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music.
“The nuns decided to do our own show called ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Diva?’” Lynn remembers. “We were all making copies of the show for friends from our computers and realized that maybe we should do an ‘all-nun Christmas thing,’ selling it as part of our collections for GYPSY OF THE YEAR.
“So we recorded Simple Gifts: Carols from the Abbey in a church downtown,” she says. “We thought we’d sell a handful a day, but instead, we ran through a box of 50 after one performance.”
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Night Music
In the Heights
Making the Connection
By the following year, The Sound of Music had closed and members of the show’s close-knit cloister had gone their separate ways. Lynn ran the idea for a holiday CD project by BC/EFA Executive Director Tom Viola, who offered the budding entrepreneur encouragement and guidance. She took the plunge and a fundraising marvel came to life.
Quick recording sessions on a church altar turned into eight weeks of recording at top-flight studios around Manhattan. “Aside from the singers and musicians from each Broadway cast, this project requires an entire production team of creative talent,” Lynn says. “I am lucky enough to work with some of the best, including arranger and music director David Nehls (The Great American Trailer Park Musical) and the CD’s engineer since 2007, Andros Rodriguez, who has worked with Shakira, Justin Timberlake and Whitney Houston.”
“For legal reasons and licensing costs, many of the songs performed are in the public domain,” adds BC/EFA’s Frank Conway, who actually performed in a crowd scene on the first CD. “Some pieces, though, are original works by the performers or the creative talent involved in a show,” he says.
Lynn says that when she does approach composers for permission to use their work, they’re usually enthusiastic, adding, “In many cases, songs are pitched to me by composers hoping for inclusion on the CD, since it’s now a high-profile project.”
This year’s CD features Kelsey Grammer, Douglas Hodge and other cast members from the celebrated revival of La Cage aux Folles performing a medley of Jerry Herman’s “We Need a Little Christmas” and “The Best of Times.” Other tracks exemplify the free-ranging spirit of the project: from hilarious (The Addams Family’s Jackie Hoffman singing her own “It’s Chanukah”) to beautiful traditional pieces (the Swedish “Jul, Jul, Stradlande Jul (Wonderful Peace)” by cast members of A Little Night Music) to a moving rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by the cast of American Idiot (with an ode to Green Day).
The CD also includes songs by cast members from Billy Elliot, Elf, In the Heights, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins, Memphis, Million Dollar Quartet, Next to Normal, Promises, Promises, Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, Rock of Ages, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story and Wicked. Also featured on this year’s CD are performances by Rosie’s Theatre Kids, The Broadway Strings and the cast of My Fair Lady from a production at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
Million Dollar Sessions…
Through the years, many famous, talented and truly gracious entertainers have performed on Carols for a Cure. Lynn recallsNine’s Antonio Banderas showing up two hours early just to get acquainted with the recording studio crew and a then-10-year-old Nick Jonas of the now famous Jonas Brothers, “sounding like a young Michael Jackson” when he recorded “Joy to the World (A Christmas Prayer” for Carols for a Cure, Volume 4 during his run in Beauty and the Beast in 2002.
The Cast of Million Dollar Quartet performs “Run, Rudolph, Run” as an encore prior to
Hunter Foster’s impassioned audience appeal
One memorable session from this year’s recording involves the multi-talented cast of Million Dollar Quartet, who recorded a Jerry Lee Lewis-infused cover of Chuck Berry’s “Run, Rudolph, Run.” “We usually crack open a bottle of red wine at some point during the last recording session of the day,” Lynn shares. “I usually bring one each day, but earlier that day, I happened to have brought in six or seven bottles to have on hand for future sessions. “We were having the best time playing around with the song and, as the creative juices flowed, so did the wine. Before we knew it, our stash for the next several sessions was gone, but we had a blast and that comes across in the recording.”
In the Heights’
Blanca Camacho and
Wicked’s Andy Karl
Wicked’s Katie Rose Clarke
Lynn says that even as the CDs have become more polished, she still wants them to sound like they’re having a party: “A really fun party – and the listener is invited. … I think the most successful tracks are the ones that capture the spirit of their show so well, that you can guess which cast is singing without having to refer to the liner notes.”
Special thanks to the photographer whose work is represented on this page: