Although the Broadway season technically started before summer even arrived, and two Broadway shows have already opened -- Macbeth and The Man Who Came to Dinner -- for some people, the season doesn't really begin until autumn and the annual Broadway On Broadway concert in Times Square.
The free event, sponsored by the League of American Theatres and Producers and the Times Square Business Improvement District, will happen this year on Sept. 10 at noon (rain or shine). More than 200 Broadway cast-members are expected to take part in the two-hour song and dance event. More than 50,000 spectators are expected to attend.
Last year's concert, held Sept. 12, 1999, had a mix of new shows, revivals and season holdovers like the third incarnation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Three of the season's new fall musicals made their Broadway debuts (so to speak) at the event, treating the crowds to new renditions of familiar tunes. Disco lived again as Saturday Night Fever's James Carpinello sang a snippet of "Stayin' Alive" and struck the famous, finger pointing dance pose that also serves as the show's logo. He then joined Paige Price to sing "How Deep is Your Love?." Lastly, co-star Orfeh performed "If I Can't Have You," encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along.
In the quieter realm of Cole Porter, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie followed with one of Kiss Me Kate's best known songs, "Wunderbar," ending the classic with a kiss. Swing!, the upcoming '30 and 40's dance musical revue, meanwhile, had Everett Bradley sing a high energy rendition of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" with trumpet back up from the Swing! orchestra. Annie Get Your Gun, Footloose, Fosse, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues and Kat and the Kings all made their first Broadway on Broadway appearances. Bernadette Peters introduced her show's segment by taking a look around Times Square and fixating on the distracting Cindy Crawford ad. Tom Wopat and the company then sang the appropriate "There's No Business Like Show Business."
Footloose's Jeremy Kushnier introduced Stacy Francis, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Donna Lee Marshall and Robin Baxter for "Let's Hear for the Boy." Fosse featured "I Gotcha" with Shannon Lewis, Brad Musgrove and Christopher R. Kirby.
Ken Page flirted with the crowd for Blues' "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," picking out a woman in the front row for his special attentions, the two gamely trying to touch hands over the barricades. Kat and the Kings, the first of the fall musicals to open this season, displayed their doo-wop-via-South-Africa style with "Lonely Girl" and "Langunya."
The Scarlet Pimpernel, returning to Broadway in version "3.0," showed off its three new leads: Ron Bohmer, 1999 Tony nominee Carolee Carmello and Marc Kudish. They sang the show's trio of betrayal, "The Riddle."
Returning to "Broadway on Broadway" were Rent, Cabaret, Chicago, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jekyll and Hyde, Ragtime and Smokey Joe's' Cafe. Jim Poulous and Manley Pope led Rent's self-titled opener. Following them with another title song was Susan Egan, singing "Cabaret." Sandy Duncan, looking recovered from her recent foot injury, sang "My Own Best Friend" with Ruthie Henshall. Tony nominee Gregg Edelman, a recent addition to the cast of Les Miserables, sang "Stars," Inspector Javert's paean to his obsessive quest for Jean Valjean. Another new addition, Howard McGillin, offered The Phantom of the Opera's "The Music of the Night."
Other numbers included Linda Balgord with "Memory" from Cats; Rob Evan singing "This is the Moment" from Jekyll and Hyde, followed by Luba Mason and Anastasia Barzee with "In His Eyes"; Ragtime's Alton Fitzgerald White and Darlesia Cearcy singing "Wheels of a Dream"; and Smokey Joe's' Cafe finished the musical performances with (suitably) "On Broadway."
Among the plays, Epic Proportions' Jeremy Davidson and Alan Tudyk introduced segments, as did Voices in the Dark's Judith Ivey, The Weir's Dermot Crowley and Side Man's Andrew McCarthy and Tony-winner, Frank Wood. Dame Edna also made several comic appearances, even tossing her trademark gladiolas into the audience.
A no-show was Epic Proportions' Kristin Chenoweth (out with illness), who was slated to close the concert with "Give My Regards to Broadway." Mitchell and Mazzie did the honors instead, joined in the end by several of the day's casts.
Aside from Dame Edna's flowers, there were other gifts for the crowd. Among the "keep cool" items passed out where Scarlet Pimpernel handkerchiefs and Saturday Night Fever and It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues fans.
Police officer Daniel Rodriguez opened the proceedings with a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." Paul Gemignani and the American Theare Orchestra also played a new "Broadway on Broadway" overture that included moments from South Pacific, West Side Story, Funny Girl, Annie, Miss Saigon and Phantom of the Opera.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Christine Ehren