"Well, that was awesome. I can't wait to watch it obsessively on YouTube," David Alpert said following a performance during the sixth annual Living For Today concert.
The sentiment was echoed by many at the Jan. 19 concert, which was held at Joe's Pub and featured a lineup of Broadway performers who presented songs that celebrate their "favorite things."
Conceived and directed by David Alpert (If/Then, The Trip to Bountiful, The Best Man), and hosted by Nicholas Kohn (Avenue Q), the evening opened with DeQuina Moore (Legally Blonde, Little Shop of Horrors) performing a sultry rendition of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, followed by Hannah Elless (Godspell) singing "Just Around the Riverbend" from her favorite Disney movie, "Pocahontas," while accompanying herself on the guitar.
Eric Anderson (Soul Doctor, Kinky Boots) presented a jazzy rendition of "The Wiz" from his favorite childhood record. Lauren Molina (Sweeney Todd, Rock of Ages) and Nick Cearley (All Shook Up), of The Skivvies, paid tribute to their favorite country by performing a mash-up of songs about America, and were later joined by Julia Murney (Wicked, The Landing), who performed a collection of songs about friendship. Tony Yazbeck (Gypsy, A Chorus Line) performed his favorite song, "Cheek to Cheek," while tap dancing, and Tony winner Alice Ripley presented her favorite song from Next to Normal, singing "I Miss the Mountains." Autumn Hurlbert (NBC's The Sound of Music Live!, Legally Blonde) and Eric William Morris (Coram Boy, Mamma Mia!) sang "Love is an Open Door" from the Disney film "Frozen," and were followed by Tituss Burgess (The Little Mermaid, "30 Rock) paying tribute to his favorite singer by performing "Meadowlark." Kerry Butler sang "Fly Fly Away" from Catch Me If You Can, and Tony winner LaChanze sang a jazzy rendition of "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine."
Moore, Trisha Jeffrey and Carla J. Hargrove, the three street urchins from Little Shop of Horrors, gave an enthusiastic performance of the title song of Alpert's favorite musical, followed by a surprise appearance by Tony winner Idina Menzel, who sang "Tomorrow" from Annie, her favorite song when she was young.
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
The concert also included the announcement of the 2014 recipients of the fund, presented by Vanessa Williams. The recipients include A Broader Way, Advocates for Youth, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's National Institute for Holocaust Education and the Indiana University Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association Emergency Scholarship Account.
Living for Today was created in honor of the late Gilana Alpert by her brother, David Alpert, and is now in its sixth year. Gilana's Fund was established in 2007 following the loss of Alpert at the age of 26. The fund, which has raised over $30,000, "celebrates and encourages educational programming promoting acceptance and understanding of our communities, each other, and ourselves."
"I feel like the luckiest guy in New York City tonight," Alpert said following the performance. "The fact that all these amazing performers showed up, that we sold out Joe's Pub, that we raised money for my sister's fund — it literally is my favorite night of the year."
Alpert's sentiment was shared by many of the performers, who expressed their enthusiasm about the event.
"Every time [Alpert calls], I sort of jump to it, because he is this incredible spirit and light and always has a positive direction to put our heart towards," Yazbeck said. "Every time he says, 'We're doing this for a great cause,' I know the causes are really important."
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
LaChanze echoed the sentiment, saying, "I think it's such a wonderful thing — this brilliant cause for [Alpert's sister], and I think it's important to get out and support what you can."
"I fell in love with [Alpert] on the first day of rehearsals," Williams remembered about working with Alpert on The Trip to Bountiful. "David's exuberance, his dedication to purpose and the love of his sister — once he told me the story, I said, 'Absolutely. I'm available.'"
"David... has become one of my dearest friends. It really is an honor to be here and give whatever time and energy I can for his sister," Menzel added.
The evening was described by Kohn as "a celebration of acceptance," and Alpert weighed in on recent social progress, saying, "I definitely feel that equality and acceptance is on its way, and it's not up to anyone but ourselves to do that, that it starts with us individually. If we could just learn to accept our fellow man, then that will take care of itself. But we have to make sure that we accept each other."
"I was just saying, I'm a mother of four; I see what my life was and where my kids' [lives are] now, and I think that tolerance and acceptance just grow and expand every year," Williams said. "And it's about education and exposure, and I think we're getting a chance to do that on a daily basis worldwide."
Visit gilanasfund.com for more information.