Broadway Backwards Raises $329,000; Gender-Bending Tunes Featured Betty Buckley, Andrew Rannells, Robin De Jesús

By Michael Gioia
06 Mar 2012

Dan Butler
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Though this year's Backwards concert touched upon heavy themes, the evening provided bouts of inspiration (show-stopping ballads from LaChanze, who sang "Go the Distance" from Hercules, and Shawna Hamic, who belted the La Cage anthem, "I Am What I Am"), light-hearted moments of hope (a duet of "It's Never Too Late To Fall in Love" from The Boy Friend with Jim Brochu and Harvey Evans) and jump-to-your-feet fun ("I Just Want to Dance" from Jerry Springer: The Opera, which featured Snow and Cicily Daniels).

After De Jesús realized that he had found "Something Wonderful" (from The King and I, sung by Len Cariou), the couple united for an "Old Fashioned Wedding" (from Annie Get Your Gun with Snow and De Jesús). Broadway favorite Betty Buckley brought down the house soon thereafter, wrapping up the De Jesús-Snow love story with a Sweeney Todd medley, which included "Not While I’m Around," "Johanna" and "My Friends."

"Anytime that people get together to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, it's important," Buckley told "I felt really privileged to be a part of it."

Other highlights of the evening included "I Still Believe" from Miss Saigon, which featured Barrett Foa and Telly Leung; "What Did I Have That I Didn't Have" and "She Wasn't You / Come Back to Me" from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, sung by Mario Cantone and Jessie Mueller, respectively; and "The Music That Makes Me Dance" from Funny Girl, which featured Andrew Rannells.

Andrew Rannells
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"It's a night of pretend, and we're able to sing these songs you would never get to sing anywhere else," said Rannells. "To be able to sing 'The Music Makes Me Dance' with a full orchestra on a Broadway stage, it was very exciting."

Godspell's Leung summed up the night, explaining, "The whole concert is about looking at things in a different way and re-examining preconceptions of not only theatre music, but [also] preconceptions of 'alternative lifestyles.' Hopefully people walk away from the theatre and do that in their lives the way we re-examine the songs—re-examine our lives and how we see the world."

Creator Bartley again directed and choreographed, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell. The creative team also included lighting designer Ryan O'Gara, costume designer Philip Heckman and co-choreographers Stephanie Klemons and Patrick O'Neill.

The complete set list for the evening follows:

"Wouldn't It Be Loverly" from My Fair Lady - Robin De Jesús
"Life With Harold" from The Full Monty - Bryan Batt
"Go the Distance" from Hercules - LaChanze
"Hernando’s Hideaway" from The Pajama Game - Ensemble
"Tonight at 8" from She Loves Me - Nancy Dussault
"If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame - Charles Busch
"The Boy Friend" from The Boy Friend - Dan Butler and Ensemble
"Tonight" from West Side Story - Sierra Boggess and Elizabeth Stanley
"The Music That Makes Me Dance" from Funny Girl - Andrew Rannells
"I Still Believe" from Miss Saigon - Barrett Foa and Telly Leung
"I Just Want to Dance" from Jerry Springer: The Opera - Jason Michael Snow, Cicily Daniels and Ensemble
"I Know Him So Well" from Chess - Anthony Fedorov and Brian Charles Rooney
"It's Never Too Late to Fall in Love" from The Boy Friend - Jim Brochu and Harvey Evans
"What Did I Have That I Didn’t Have" from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever - Mario Cantone
"She Wasn't You / Come Back to Me" from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever - Jessie Mueller
"The Game" from Damn Yankees - Jenn Colella, Jackie Hoffman and Ensemble
"Something Wonderful" from The King and I - Len Cariou
"Old Fashioned Wedding" from Annie Get Your Gun - Robin De Jesús and Jason Michael Snow
"Sweeney Todd Medley - Not While I’m Around / Johanna / My Friends" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Betty Buckley
"I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles - Shawna Hamic and Ensemble