Peters, Spacey, Scott Wolf, oh my!
From 11:30 AM to 1 PM, the League of American Theatres presented "Stars in the Alley", its annual free concert given in Shubert Alley, a stretch of concrete between the 44th and 45th Streets, squeezed between the Booth and the Shubert Theatres.
1999's concert featured, among its presenters, former Tony winners and current stage and film stars, Kevin Spacey and Matthew Broderick, TV stars Edie Falco ("The Sopranos") and Scott Wolf ("Party of Five") and Broadway legend Bernadette Peters.
Musical numbers ranged from the revivals like Annie Get Your Gun and Peter Pan to the newcomers like Footloose, Fosse and The Civil War to standbys like Les Miserables, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
Opening the precedings was Peters, who welcomed the crowds to Shubert Alley, a path she lauded as "if not the crossroads of the world, certainly a nice shortcut between 44th and 45th streets." The revivals led the concert's musical numbers with Tom Wopat and the Annie Get Your Gun cowboys singing "My Defenses Are Down." Replacing announced Tony nominee Kristin Chenoweth were You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown's other Tony nominee Roger Bart and Anthony Rapp, presenting Snoopy's paean to food, "Suppertime." Cathy Rigby, clad in Peter Pan tee shirt and her character's signature green boots, led her kid cast in "I Won't Grow Up."
John Kander and Fred Ebb's revivals, Chicago and Cabaret, were celebrated back-to-back with Ruthie Henshall and Roz Ryan lamenting Chicago's "Class" and Mary McCormack welcomed the crowds to Cabaret's "Cabaret." Chicago's Billy Flynn, Brent Barrett, introduced the numbers.
After watching McCormack, Rigby returned, wondering out loud why she "doesn't get roles like that." She welcomed League of American Theatres President Jed Bernstein, who thanked the concert's sponsors and introduced Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld talked of Broadway's "twelve blocks long and two blocks wide" community as "the heartbeat of New York" and presented the Star Award to New York City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone. The Star Award is granted to an individual in government service who has supported the arts -- and Broadway theatre in particular.
The Weir's Kieran Ahren and Lonesome West's Dawn Bradfield talked up Broadway's foreign contingency from David Hare's "triple play," ending with Via Dolorosa and their own Irish plays.
Introducing the next musical number from It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, Bradfield and Ahren quipped, "When we Irish feel the blues, we just have a laugh about it. But you Americans, you like to sing about it." Lincoln Center's Tony nominee then raised the heat with Carver Calvert's rendition of "Fever."
Ring Round the Moon's Marian Seldes mentioned Broadway's current play revivals of great American and foreign playwrights, supported by long running musicals who draw the crowds to New York's theatre. The long runners then ran together with Les Miserables' Alice Ripley ("I Dreamed a Dream"), Miss Saigon's Billy Porter ("Bui Doi"), Cats's Linda Balgord ("Memory") and Phantom of the Opera's Hugh Panaro ("Music of the Night").
Art's "triple threat" Buck Henry, Wayne Knight and George Segal introduced Broadway's American "triple play," Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel (which performed, despite closing May 30) and his newest offering, The Civil War. Current Jekyll/Hyde Rob Evan had his moment with "This is the Moment," former Marguerite Rachel York did "Storybook" and Civil War's confederate army, led by a guitar-strumming Gene Miller, sang their "Last Waltz for Dixie".
Two LaGuardia High School graduating seniors, Emily Kleinman and Lamar Lewis, were honored with Continental's Rising Star Awards as part of the event. Film star and Tony nominee Spacey spoke, offering the pair tickets to The Iceman Cometh and applauding Continental's scholarship program. Without his own scholarships, Spacey said, "I wouldn't have gotten through Julliard. They gave me an opportunity to buy books and to occasionally eat a meal."
Spacey also spoke of making an effort to bring young people into the theatre. "We should try everything we can to encourage not only people to seek out arts in their lives, but also to attend the arts, to make it affordable for students and young kids to start coming to the theatre. I challenge every producer in this town to make that possible."
Side Man's Tony nominee Frank Wood was joined by onstage wife Falco and their new "son," "Party of Five"'s Wolf to introduce the next group of long-running shows.
Breaking the longest-running musical revue record the day of "Stars in the Alley," Smokey Joe's Cafe sang "Stand By Me" with up-coming guest star Tony Orlando and the cast. Meg Tollis and the kids of The Sound of Music gave the show's signature tune, "Do Re Mi." Rent's cast celebrated their "Seasons of Love" and Alton F. Fitzgerald and LaChanze sang Ragtime's "Wheels of a Dream".
But, according to Broderick and his Night Must Fall costar J. Smith Cameron, the final hosts of the concert, the afternoon's "last words" were reserved for legendary director-choreographer, Bob Fosse. Fosse's Tony nominee Valarie Pettiford closed the concert with "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries".
-- By Christine Ehren