The Hammerstein Ballroom was decked out in shades of red and white — the signature colors of the award-winning MCC Theater, the Off-Broadway company that specializes in showcasing new work — as the " Miscast Class of 2013," under the music direction of Phil Reno, took their seats on the Hammerstein stage.
Spring Awakening Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff, who closed last year's Miscast gala with a show-stopping rendition of " Anything Goes" — complete with Tony winner Kathleen Marshall's choreography and backup dancers from the Tony-winning musical's ensemble — kicked off the evening. Before explaining his 2013 song choice, the Miscast vet gave a "shout out" to Tony Award winner Judith Light, the evening's honoree who was recognized for "her illustrious screen and stage career, her work with MCC Theater, and her impassioned advocacy of several causes, including Arts in Education."
In hopes to top his inner Sutton Foster, Groff enlisted the help of Peter and the Starcatcher Tony Award winner Christian Borle — a man who always felt like a "sister to me," said Groff — for a performance of "If Mama Was Married" from the Tony-winning musical Gypsy. Groff was "miscast" as Louise, while a purposefully nasal-voiced Borle gave his best Dainty June.
Sierra Boggess quickly took center stage following the well-received Groff-Borle duet and explained that her song choice was influenced by her involvement with the musical theatre staple Les Misérables. Boggess, who began her stage career as an understudy for Cosette in the U.S. national tour of Les Miz, expressed that she was always "overlooked" for the role that she was dying to play. When she returned to the musical in 2012 — joining the West End company at the Queen's Theatre — she took over the role of Fantine. However, she always wanted to take on the part that her fiancé, Tam Mutu, plays now (in London) — Javert. "This is my audition!" she said, before launching into a soaring rendition of "Stars." Nicole Parker, who has appeared in Broadway's Wicked and The People in the Picture — and is known for her spot-on celebrity impersonations — created a solemn tone at the Hammerstein with an intimate and captivating performance of "I Cannot Hear the City" from the Marvin Hamlisch- Craig Carnelia- John Guare musical Sweet Smell of Success, which she first discovered while watching a PBS tribute to Hamlisch on New Year's Eve.
The first major highlight of the evening was a duet between Newsies Tony Award nominee and "Smash" star Jeremy Jordan and Cheyenne Jackson, recently of the short-lived comedy The Performers, who sang the roles of Daisy and Violet, respectively, in the Side Show power ballad "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" The tune garnered multiple shouts and applause as the keys were elevated throughout — ending in the key originally performed by Tony nominees Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner. Also, to pass as conjoined twins, a small platform was brought on stage to raise Jordan's height to match with Jackson.
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Although LaChanze decided on a song from Dreamgirls — "She's black! What is the miscast?" said the Color Purple Tony winner — she confessed that after years of auditioning for the role of Effie, she was consistently told by casting directors that she was "not black enough." The actress, in a bright red dress, addressed those casting directors and said, "This is for you," as she belted the second-act Dreamgirls ballad "I Am Changing." The evening continued with "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof, performed by Borle, Michael Mandell and the evening's host, Victor Garber; a heartfelt "No One Is Alone" from Into the Woods, performed by Jackson; a dance-heavy "Don't Break the Rules" from Catch Me If You Can, performed by a Norbert Leo Butz-inspired Parker; and a belty "Back to Before" from Ragtime, performed by LaChanze.
The second major highlight of the evening occurred when Boggess returned center stage and introduced the evening's next performer — "Britney Spears." The actress, who recently starred as soprano Christine Daaé in the 25th anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera, performed a riff-tastic "Think of Me" in the spirit of Spears — complete with booty shaking, lack of diction and a can of Coca-Cola.
Miscast concluded on a high note — well, two high notes — from Jordan and Groff as they took on the "Smash" staple "Let Me Be Your Star." Jordan, who introduced the number as an homage to his "Smash" cast, took on Karen, as Groff played Ivy. The two adorned Marilyn Monroe wigs and ran throughout the ballroom — singing to audience members and competing for stardom.
As for a finale, Tony Award winner Jane Krakowski was determined to top Groff's 2012 "Anything Goes" performance, so she enlisted a Broadway ensemble of her own. Musical director Alex Lacamoire and cast members from In the Heights took the stage for the title song of the Tony-winning musical with Krakowski perfectly "miscast" as Usnavi. Nailing every word of Lin-Manuel Miranda's iconic rap song, Krakowski celebrated with high fives all around.
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)