Thirteen leading members of the Dramatists Guild took the stage at the Edison Ballroom Oct. 21 for what one of them, Stephen Sondheim, complimented as "a fundraiser that's something I'd like to go to." Great Writers Thank Their Lucky Stars consisted of Guild members introducing those lucky stars to the lucky audience for a song or scene to benefit the Dramatists Guild Fund. These are top, active writers, and the selected stars were among Broadway's best.
The evening was hosted by Michael Urie, who by virtue of his current role in Buyer and Cellar, is a favorite among inner theatre circles. Urie's material for the event was written by the author of his play, Jonathan Tolins, and it was as bright and funny as Buyer and Cellar. ("I learned that all I had to do to make the show work was to say the lines exactly as written, including punctuation," Urie said, and that whenever he made suggestions to the playwright, "I was wrong — even when he used them."
This set the stage for a prime evening that began with Ben Vereen singing "Magic to Do" from Pippin, by Dramatists Guild president Stephen Schwartz. Next up was Alan Menken, who introduced Jeremy Jordan singing "Santa Fe" from Newsies. Then came playwright John Guare, who praised the Guild as "the only place you feel safe going after you've had a horrible opening." Sherie Rene Scott sang "Hey, Stay Awhile" from Landscape of the Body, with Guare himself grunting some lines as an angry cyclist in an ill-fitting bicycle helmet.
Michael John LaChiusa introduced Kate Baldwin, who sang "A Stranger in a Strange New Place," a beautiful ballad from Giant, and George C. Wolfe brought on Tonya Pinkins and Julian Fleisher for "The Last Chance Blues" from Jelly's Last Jam. Next came Andrew Lippa, introducing Norbert Leo Butz for "Fight the Dragons" from the current Big Fish. Theresa Rebeck brought on Julie White to present an excerpt from her 2003 play Bad Dates. Next came presentations to the evening's two honorees, donors Roe Green and Don Loftus (both of whom held their own with humorous speeches).
Adam Guettel brought along Kelli O'Hara to introduce a stunning new song, "Let Me Be Here Tonight," from the upcoming musical Days of Wine and Roses. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, celebrating their 30th year of collaboration, saluted Marin Mazzie, who gave a powerful performance of her showstopper from Ragtime, "Back to Before." Composer Jason Robert Brown and librettist Marsha Norman offered an amusing introduction to The Bridges of Madison County, followed by O'Hara and Steven Pasquale singing "Falling into You." The 90-minute entertainment, briskly directed by Noah Himmelstein with musical direction by Andrew Gerle, culminated with Sondheim (described by Urie as "the man I'm far too nervous to make a joke about") graciously saluting the Dramatists Guild Fund, which aids and nurtures writers, funds non-profits, and educates future generations of writers. He then brought out Bernadette Peters, who ended the proceedings with "Move On" from Sunday in the Park with George.