You could tell who were the New Yorkers Jan. 19 amid the colorfully dressed throngs at Miami's Bayside Marketplace, an airy shopping complex along the sun-drenched harborfront of Biscayne Bay. They were the ones in black, sweating chic-ly in the eighty-degree noonday heat—including Sandy Duncan in jeans, studded belt and sheer blouse over a maillot.
The pixie star led a cast of topnotch professionals—Ruthie Henshall, Michael Mulheren, Paige Price, and Keith Byron Kirk—in an hour-long revue of Broadway song and dance, a kickoff to the New York Loves America tour which will hit fourteen other U.S. cities, concluding Feb. 2 in Denver. The musical revue, organized under the auspices of the League of American Theatres and Producers, was billed as "a thank you" for the support which the country had lent to New York City in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. And if in the process, publicity could be generated to lift sagging advance ticket sales on Broadway and promote New York City tourism, all the better.
Before Duncan launched into "All That Jazz" against a backdrop of pleasure craft moving in and out of the marina, League president Jed Bernstein welcomed a crowd of about 500, describing Miami as "the sixth borough," and noting that the troupe was making their first stop here, in the Sunshine State, because if "it had been Minnesota, the cast would have quit."
Turning to more somber business, he presented the heads of Miami's police and fire departments with two firemen helmets, signed by the surviving members of the decimated "Broadway firehouse," Ladder 4, Engine 54—a ceremony which will be repeated in each city on the tour. The brigade's motto, said Bernstein, was "Never Missed a Performance"—a cue to bring on Duncan and the troupers who launched into spirited numbers from long-running Broadway hits, such as Michael Mulheren on "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago, as well as those from upcoming shows, like Price's rendition of "I'm Just a Girl Who Cain't Say No" from Oklahoma! Keith Byron Kirk knocked it out of the park with "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miz. But the biggest ovations were reserved for Henshall's belting of "Cabaret" and for the trio of Duncan, Paige and Henshall on "Dancin' Queen", introduced "….as a song from Mamma Mia!, the Italian name of the British hit featuring the music of the Swedish Rock group, ABBA, now in America."
Happily drinking in the show in the audience were Ira and Ruth Gordon, a middle-aged Miami couple who said that they were planning a trip to New York in March. After the Broadway quintet concluded with a song from "Rent", Ruth Gordon ("not the actress, she dead, but me, I'm alive") confessed that she and her husband were "Broadway addicts" and had been drawn to Bayside by a mention of the free musical revue in the local paper. "We love Sandy Duncan and I think this show was just terrific," she said. "It'll bring the nation closer to New York and to Broadway." Sitting next to her was Selma Godwin, an elderly tourist from Alabama who had never been to Broadway but was now thinking about it. "I hear it's very expensive," she said. "But I don't think about that quite as much as I used to [before September 11th]. "
Such responses could help bring New York tourism back to previous levels, said Christyne Nicholas, president of NYC and Company, who was present at the kick-off and whose civic organization helped to underwrite the tour. "We're down about ten percent but that's bouncing back from having been down sixteen percent," she said optimistically. "Grassroots events like this can help both in the near future and long term."
—By Patrick Pacheco