Record-Shattering Broadway Backwards Celebrates LGBTQ+ Love Through Show Tunes

A brilliant string of 11-o’clock numbers, standing ovations and LGBTQ+ joy reverberated through the historic walls at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre on March 11, 2024, when Tony Award winners, Broadway legends and newcomers alike spectacularly shared LGBTQ+ stories through show tunes at Broadway Backwards.

The show raised a record $917,651 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (The Center) in New York City. The 2024 total bested the record set last year by more than $152,000. The one-night-only, annual event is produced by Broadway Cares.

The elevated evening of love, community and unparalleled performances is the only annual Broadway event custom-made for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. By taking familiar songs in the Broadway canon and transforming them into queer anthems, lighthearted romps and emotional ballads, Broadway Backwards tells stories that deserve to be told onstage.

Jenn Colella hosted the event, warmly welcoming returning guests while ushering in a new generation of Broadway Backwards attendees. Colella led a cast of 101 performers, a 13-piece orchestra and a standing-room-only audience in the event’s celebratory 18th edition.

Breakout star Julie Benko opened the show with a flirty and fierce rendition of “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls. She coquettishly rolled the dice alongside a high-rolling ensemble of women, leading them in a spirited, larger-than-life dance number.

The New Amsterdam swelled with sniffles and sobs when John McGinty led a powerful number as a deaf college student confronting his mother about her insensitivities around his sexuality and deafness. He passionately signed “Listen” from the Dreamgirls film, which was voiced by Jordan Fisher, whose powerhouse vocals reflected the fiery plea. Daniel Marmion and Morgana Shaw played McGinty’s parents.

In an Italian-American fever dream, Bradley Dean portrayed a Godfather archetype advising his son’s suitor, played by Nicholas Park, to “Be Italian” in the signature song from Nine. Joined by a gaggle of gregarious gangsters, the full-out production number had the cast dancing sensually and sensationally amid red-checkered tablecloths strewn with glasses of merlot. The number also featured Todd Buonopane, Joe Chisholm and Janelle Farias Sando.

The night included a legendary lineup of preeminent performers.

Tony Award winner Alex Newell took the audience “Back to Before” with a show-stopping, standing-ovation-inducing spin on the hit from Ragtime, bringing their singular vocals to the ever-poignant words “you were my sky, my moon and my stars and my ocean/we can never go back to before.”

Tituss Burgess left the crowd breathless after sharing an impassioned vow of commitment and love in his heart-wrenching “I Loves You Porgy” from Porgy and Bess.

He may have been in calculus class, but chemistry was in the air when Jonathan Bennett fell in love with life-size cutouts of himself in a funny and fetch performance of “Stupid With Love” from the Mean Girls musical.

Constance Wu delighted the crowd with a jazzy and jubilant rendition of “The Sadder but Wiser Girl” from The Music Man.

Casey Likes and Jelani Remy shared an uproarious rapport in a duet of “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen, imbuing enthusiasm and flirtatiousness into every sentence said simultaneously.

The beloved “Why God Why?” from Miss Saigon took on new meaning when Arielle Jacobs (Here Lies Love) worked through her complicated emotions of falling in love with Mae-Lynn Flores with rapturous vocals that immersed the audience in her inner struggle.

Two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz delivered an unwavering tribute of love with his signature charisma and electrifying vocals in “Fly, Fly Away” from Catch Me If You Can.

Tony winner Lillias White was found dreaming of settling down in a “house on the hill” alongside her lover in her stirring rendition of “What Say You, Meg?” from The Last Ship.

Robin de Jesús, fantasized about his partner’s abandoned pipe dream in an endearing and honeyed take on “An English Teacher” from Bye Bye Birdie. The number was in tribute to the song’s original Broadway performer, Chita Rivera, who passed away earlier this year.

Shoshana Bean delivered a nuanced, singer-songwriter-inspired spin on Sondheim’s cherished ballad “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George.

Two of Broadway’s most iconic leading men, Tony winner Len Cariou and Chip Zien, exchanged not just a pineapple but a charming duet with “It Couldn’t Please Me More” from Cabaret.

Two of Broadway’s most beloved Jasmines from Aladdin, Shoba Narayan and Courtney Reed, took flight on the show’s magic carpet in its home at the New Amsterdam in a soaring, sapphic rendition of “A Whole New World.”

Lamenting an unrequited high school crush, Tony Yazbeck and Darius de Haas pulled on heartstrings in a bittersweet “Nothing Really Happened” from Is There Life After High School?. The number also featured Jamison Stern.

Joshua Henry, joined by the Broadway Inspirational Voices, closed the show with a rousing rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” It served as a rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ community to be authentically, unabashedly themselves – giving an all-new significance to the lionized words “follow every rainbow/til you find your dream.”

Tony and Emmy Award winner Debra Monk made a special appearance to share the impact of supporting the lifesaving work of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Center. Presenting sponsor City National Bank was represented by Senior Vice President Erik Piecuch who shared a $100,000 check with Broadway Backwards Creator Robert Bartley, who returned to direct, write and choreograph the show.

With lead producers Jeff Brancato, Scott T. Stevens and Danny Whitman, Bartley was joined by Ted Arthur and Mary-Mitchell Campbell as music supervisors, Michael Gacetta as music director, Nicholas Connors and Nick Wilders as associate music directors, Skye Mattox and Adam Roberts as choreographers and associate directors, and Christopher Tester as director of artistic sign language. E Sara Barnes served as production stage manager, leading a team of 10 stage managers. Mark Brandon, CSA, and Jarrett Reiche from Casting by ARC joined as casting consultants.

Broadway Backwards 2024 poster

The evening featured lighting design by Carolyn Wong, sound design by Marie Renee Foucher and prop design by Jenna Snyder and Alexander Wylie. Costume designers included Kitty Cassetti, Jess Gersz, Vanessa Leuck, Natalie Loveland, Tyler Carlton Williams and Nicole Zausmer.

Broadway Backwards began as a grassroots concert performed at The Center in 2006. Since coming to Broadway Cares in 2010, the event has grown into one of the most anticipated annual celebrations on Broadway. Last year’s empowering edition raised a record $765,069. In its 18 editions, Broadway Backwards has raised more than $7.9 million for The Center and Broadway Cares.

Longtime Broadway Cares corporate partner City National Bank joined Broadway Backwards as presenting sponsor this year, with additional generous support from lead corporate sponsors Jean Paul Gaultier, The New York Times and United Airlines, the official airline of Broadway Cares, as well as lead individual sponsor Ted Snowdon.

Photos by Curtis Brown and Rebecca J Michelson

Video by Bardo Arts

This year’s program

Backwards 2024 Sponsors