Grand Finale Celebration Brings ABC Daytime’s Seven-Year Total to $1,850,000

In a memorable evening packed with unforgettable song and dance from two dozen of daytime television’s most talented actors, the Grand Finale Celebration of ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares on March 13, 2011, raised an astounding $302,690.

The emotional evening ended with a surprise appearance by the queen of daytime television, Susan Lucci, rushing onto stage to a thunderous ovation from the ecstatic sold-out crowd at New York City’s historic concert venue The Town Hall.

Susan joined her All My Children cast mates Bobbie Eakes and Walt Willey, who were the evening’s co-hosts, to announce that the seven-year run of ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares had raised $1,850,000.

“I was here for the first ABC Daytime Celebrates Broadway Cares in 2005 when it was a celebration of All My Children‘s extraordinary 35th anniversary,” Susan told a hushed audience. “Here we are now, seven years later, and the incredible cast of All My Children has been joined ever since by our wonderfully talented friends from One Life to Live and General Hospital and look how far we’ve come!”

The eclectic show, featuring witty parodies, tear-jerking ballads and razzle-dazzle production numbers, led up to a scream-inducing, heart-palpitating final song featuring four hunks from One Life to Live – Tom Degnan, David Gregory, Josh Kelly and Mark Lawson – stripping down to only bath towels in “Let It Go” from Broadway’s The Full Monty.

In a frisky, last-minute gesture to help Broadway Cares, the four actors offered to sign and auction off their towels in a live free-for-all sale that, in a matter of moments, added $4,000 to the evening’s grand total.

One Life to Live hunk David Gregory makes the audience swoon with his singing of “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot.

The Grand Final Celebration included a mix of new favorites from the Broadway stage and recreations of favorite numbers from past editions of ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares.As the houselights dimmed for the evening, actors from all three blockbuster ABC Daytime dramas took to the stage for the stirring opening number “We Are What We Are” from the Tony Award-winning hit La Cage Aux Folles. The power-packed opener featured adapted lyrics that chronicled some of the trials and tribulations in Pine Valley, Llanview and Port Charles – the fictitious home towns for each of the shows.

La Cage was revisited at the end of Act One with a commanding performance of the signature song “I Am What I Am,” by six-time Emmy Award winner Anthony Geary.

The highlight of the second act came when Bobbie Eakes set aside her duties as co-host, stepped seductively into the spotlight center stage and in a hot lavender dress stopped the show cold with a rousing and sassy rendition of the Kander and Ebb standard “And the World Goes ‘Round.”

In one of the evening’s most powerful moments, One Life to Live‘s Mark Lawson showed off his musical theater training from Boston Conservatory of Music in a captivating rendition of “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde.

General Hospital‘s Bradford Anderson, making his fourth appearance at the event, touchingly sang “I Chose Right” from Baby, a song made more special by Bradford’s announcement last month that he and his wife, Keira, are expecting their first child this summer.

Also from General Hospital, Anthony’s on-screen son, Jonathan Jackson, melted the audience with his impassioned version of “Endless Night” from The Lion King before later joining Anthony in a dramatic duet of “No More” from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Several fan favorite numbers from past shows were revisited this year, including:

  • Chicago‘s infamous “Cellblock Tango,” first performed at ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares in 2007. This year’s version, with lyrics adapted to fit each of the actor’s onscreen characters, featured One Life to Live‘s Kristen Alderson, Melissa Archer, Kassie DePaiva, Hillary B. Smith, Brittany Underwood and Bree Williamson.
  • The cheeky “Show Off” from Tony Award-winning The Drowsy Chaperone, which was masterfully performed this year by All My Children ingénue Natalie Hall.
  • “Fever,” the sultry hit made famous by Peggy Lee and seductively performed this year by Hillary B. Smith.
  • “Trouble” from the Elvis Presley classic movie King Creole, which starred One Life to Live‘s Kristen Alderson this year, making her fifth appearance in ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares.
  • The dashing Brandon Barash, General Hospital‘s resident bad boy, who made the crowd swoon with the swinging, upbeat Bobby Darin Classic “Beyond the Sea.”

Two other special guests graced the stage during the show thanks to their winning bids in competitive online auctions. Longtime soap opera fan Jan Warner masterfully joined Bobbie and Walt as a special co-host throughout the show.

Jane Morison became the envy of all the audience when she appeared as a just-hired wardrobe assistant in the humorous original skit “Dude, where’s my shirt?” featuring five hunks from One Life to Live: Tom Degnan, Josh Kelly, Lenny Platt, Nic Robuck and a perpetually shirtless David Gregory.

Other performers gracing the stage to help Broadway Cares included Darnell Williams from All My Children and Terri Conn, Ted King, Florencia Lozano and Kelley Missal from One Life to Live.

ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares was directed by John Dietrich. Musical Directors were Steven Freeman and Shawn Gough.

During the finale announcements about this year’s grand totals, Broadway Cares and ABC Daytime paid tribute to Michael Cohen, who conceived the idea of the show as a way to celebrate All My Children‘s 35th Anniversary. Michael spearheaded efforts the following year to add One Life to Live andGeneral Hospital to the show and he has continued to be an integral player in creating the event and coordinating the talent every year. In appreciation of his hard work, Broadway Cares proudly donated $5,000 in his honor to The Actors Fund, an organization that provides a safety net of social services to those in the entertainment industry in need, crisis or transition.

In addition to Michael, the event could not take place without the tremendous support of ABC Daytime. A special thank you to Brian Frons, president, Daytime, Disney-ABC Television Group, and all of our friends at ABC. So many people were instrumental in making the ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares Grand Finale Celebration a success, particularly longtime friends to BC/EFA Yvonne Graham, Lauri Hogan, Mitch Messinger, Karl T. Nilsson, Erin Weir, Michael Bassett and Jori Petersen.

The ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares Grand Finale Celebration was made possible through the generosity of The New York Times and United Airlines.

Photos taken by Peter James Zielinski