Another late addition to the star-studded company is Emmy Award-winning talk show host Rosie O'Donnell, who will open the concert as the first of five Leading Players. O'Donnell and Vereen join the previously announced Leading Players Darius de Haas, Billy Porter and Kate Shindle.
Michael Arden, the star of the Off-Broadway hit Bare, A Pop Opera, will play the title role of Pippin, which is being presented as a staged concert to commemorate World AIDS Day. Arden will play opposite Laura Benanti, who has been cast as Pippin's love interest, Catherine. The company also includes Terrence Mann as Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; Charles Busch, who will don drag to play Berthe; Harrison Chad as young Theo; Cameron Mathison as Lewis; and Julia Murney, who will play Fastrada.
The ensemble comprises Sarah Chase, Kristoffer Cusick, Adam Fleming, Barrett Foa, Sriram Ganesan, Julie Garnye, Jordan Gelber, Kearran Giovanni, Jenna Leigh Green, Colin Hanlon, Cheyenne Jackson, Natalie Joy Johnson, Michael Longoria, Jennifer Malenke, Kate Pazakis, Erin Quill, Randy Redd, Robb Sapp, Marty Thomas, Caitlin van Zandt, and Josh Young. The one-night-only mounting of the Stephen Schwartz musical will boast an 80-member choir and full orchestra.
Gabriel Barre, who directed Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party Off Broadway, will helm the upcoming production of Pippin at The Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom at 34th Street and 8th Avenue. The concert, which will benefit the National AIDS Fund and the non-profit Storm Theatre, will feature choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical direction by Mark Hartman. Michael Bottari and Ronald Case are the evening's costume designers.
Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original 1972 Broadway production of Pippin, imposing his conceptual vision onto the bittersweet fairytale that Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson created. Ben Vereen was the Leading Player ("Magic to Do," "Simple Joys"), John Rubinstein played the searching Pippin ("Corner of the Sky," "With You"), Jill Clayburgh was his love interest ("I Guess I'll Miss the Man," "Kind of Woman"), Leland Palmer his evil stepmother ("Spread a Little Sunshine") and Irene Ryan was Pippin's feisty grandmother ("No Time At All"). Ryan (the famed stage actress and TV's "Granny" of "The Beverly Hillbillies") left the show for health reasons and died during the run. The show ran 1,944 performances and was one of a handful of scores that brought a pop sound to the theatre in the 1970's (along with Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar). A star of stage and screen, Ben Vereen made his Broadway debut in Jesus Christ Superstar, earning a Tony Award nomination for his performance. He nabbed the Tony for his work in Bob Fosse's production of Pippin and has also starred on Broadway in Grind, Jelly's Last Jam and Fosse. The recent revival of I'm Not Rappaport marked Vereen's non-musical Broadway debut.
Rosie O'Donnell has appeared on Broadway in Grease! and Seussical and produced the Boy George musical Taboo. She also hosted the Emmy-winning "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," and her numerous screen credits include "Gimme a Break!," "A League of Their Own," "The Flintstones," "Exit to Eden," "Beautiful Girls," "The Twilight of the Golds," "Wide Awake" and "Will & Grace." She is also at work on an autobiographical theatre project based on her book "Find Me."
Tickets range from $50 to $1,000, and many prices include the party following the performance, which will include the Pippin company. Call (212) 868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com. Donation options and sponsorship opportunities are available through www.pippinconcert.org or by contacting PippinConcert@aol.com.
The Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom is located in Manhattan at 311 West 34th Street.
Last season, McGonnigal and Shindle presented an all-star benefit of another Stephen Schwartz musical, Children of Eden. That concert also benefited the National AIDS Fund.