Gender Lines Blur as Norm Lewis, Stephanie J. Block, Robin De Jesus, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and More Go Backwards at BC/EFA Benefit

By Michael Gioia
25 Mar 2014

Norm Lewis
Photo by Matthew Blank
The musical highlight of the evening, however, came when Patricia Morison, the original Kate in Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate — who celebrated her 99th birthday March 19 — took to the Broadway stage (which she called her "home") to perform "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. The actress, looking glamorous from her wheelchair, placed stage left, nailed the number (hardly looking at the sheet music on her music stand) and received a standing ovation and rapturous applause.

"The next performer is just f*cked!" joked host White. Tony nominee Norm Lewis, Broadway's next Phantom, took the stage for "Home" from The Wiz.

The Wiz, he said, "was the first musical that I ever went to the library in my high school, took the album home and listened to entirely. I wasn't a musical-theatre person. I got into the musical-theatre world late, and someone told me, 'You should check out this show, The Wiz.' I took it home, I fell in love with it. And, that song — it just reminds me of that time."

The evening also included "Freddy, My Love" from Grease (performed by John Tartaglia with Anthony Festa, Sean McGee and Brandon Uranowitz), "Been a Long Day" from How to Succeed… (performed by Stephen Bienske, Colin Hanlon, Max von Essen and the Backwards ensemble), "I Still Get Jealous" from High Button Shoes (performed by Debra Monk and Cass Morgan), "I Have Dreamed" from The King and I (performed by Jose Llana and Kyle Dean Massey), "Could I Leave You" from Follies (performed by Roger Rees and introduced by his partner Rick Elice), "She Likes Basketball" from Promises, Promises (performed by Beth Leavel), "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag" from Chicago (performed by Michael Berresse and Tony Yazbeck) and "Hold On" (performed by Ken Page and the Backwards ensemble).

"The fight's not over," said Lewis of the cause, "and I know friends of mine who are ill and who are struggling financially who need some help."

Keenan-Bolger added, "What I think the Broadway community has done so well is take the talents of its members and find ways to really use it as a tool for social change."

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

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Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Stephen Bienskie, Colin Hanlon and Max von Essen
Photo by Matthew Blank