Salon: A Broadway House Concert

All of BC/EFA events are unique, but the intimate rapport between the performers and guests at Ron Pobuda’s annual Salonis hard to duplicate. It’s a special feeling that keeps loyal fans coming back and makes new friends every year. In four short years this event has raised almost $100,000 for BC/EFA.

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Monday, November 2’s Fourth Annual Salon was no exception, offering guests the opportunity to gather ‘round the piano to enjoy some of the biggest talents on Broadway while taking in a panoramic view of Central Park.

Borrowing a line from A Chorus Line, this year’s event, subtitled “I Used to Dance Around the Living Room,” featured pianist Ben Cohn on his off night from Wicked, backing over a dozen stars as they performed some of their favorite songs, including ones that inspired them when they were younger and dreaming of fame.

One case in point, before giving a stunning rendition of “The Man That Got Away,” Ann Harada remembered watching Judy Garland in A Star as Born, singing in a smoky, after-hours club; Maya Days reflected on growing up with a black father and white mother in New England, a perfect intro for Fame’s “Out Here on My Own,” while Olivia D’Abo got a big laugh when she remembered catching her father “dancing around the living room…in my mother’s clothes!”

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Salon perennial Paul Shaffer drew even bigger laughs, pounding the keyboard to destruction as the “Divas of Daytime” (Kathy Brier, Bobbie Eakes and Kassie DePaiva) performed the only song Shaffer ever wrote: “It’s Raining Men.”

“My wife hated that song when I wrote it. Despised it,” he recalled. “But she hated it less when the residuals started paying the phone bill.”

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Hunky Kevin Spirtas performed early in the evening, offering “I Can Do That,” “Old Devil Moon” and “Once Before I Go,” the song he never got to perform as Hugh Jackman’s understudy in The Boy From Oz.

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Spirtas also shared hosting duties with BC/EFA Producer Frank Conway, introducing performers including: Kathryn Holtkamp (“Much More”), D’Abo (“Fever”), 1998’s Miss America Kate Shindle (“Anything Can Happen”), and Days (“I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Last Dance”). Echoing Spirtas’ lament, Harada performed “One of the Boys,” the showstopper she never got to do as the always-healthy Allison Janney’s understudy in Nine to Five. ABC daytime stars DePaiva, Eakes and Brier also teamed up for “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

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Salon 2009 Image Three Tony winners stopped by, including The Producers’ Cady Huffman, who put a new spin on Depression-era classics “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “Sunny Side of the Street.” Trent Kowalik, one of three actors who shared the Tony for the title role in Billy Elliot, performed his character’s signature number “Electricity,” while Greg Jbara, his dad onstage, offered “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again?”

Pobuda’s Plan

Though he describes himself as “the one who doesn’t do anything,” host Ron Pobuda actually makes Salon one of BC/EFA’s easiest events to produce. President of Red Post, a New York-based video and television post-production facility, Pobuda developed the idea for Salon with his long-time friends, actors Bobbie Eakes (“All My Children”) and her husband David Steen (“Sordid Lives: The Series”).

“So when they approached us, Ron and his team already had the idea fully fleshed out and knew what was involved with producing an event, from catering to clean-up,” says BC/EFA’s Conway. “All they needed from us was to bring our Broadway friends in to sing, mingle with the guests, pose for a few pictures and enjoy themselves, which they always do.”

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“The secret to Salon is that we treat our performers like honored guests and our guests like stars,” he adds. This year’s guest stars included a mix of Pobuda’s friends and neighbors, Salon aficionados, and a few first-timers, all charmed by their host, the view and the talent.

Family Affair
For the second year running, Mary Jane Bernhardt traveled from Southern Illinois to visit her son Mark and attend Salon as his date. “I wish I could go to every Broadway Cares event,” said Mary Jane, whose sentiments were echoed by Wisconsin natives and long-time donors Tim and Judy Dove, who brought daughter Angie along. “This is our fourth Salon. We’ve been at every one. This and Broadway Bares are my favorite things to do,” said Judy, adding that she was excited to catch up with Greg Jbara and meet the talented Trent, who attended with mom Lauretta and (real) dad Michael.

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Finally, long-time BC/EFA supporters Jill and Marty Handelsman opted out of another event after learning that Maya Days would be performing. “Jill’s written a lot of fan letters, but I had never written one before I saw Maya in Jesus Christ Superstar,” said Marty, with Jill adding, “And she answered him!” Days then began her set, which capped the evening, by thanking the couple for their thoughtful, inspiring words – a perfect example of Salon synergy between talented performers and sophisticated fans.

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Wine for Salon 2009 was generously donated by Beaulieu Vineyards, with food provided by Cocktail Caterers and a Special food presentation by Le Cordon Bleu.

 Photo Credit: Native NYker