On March 18, two days before spring officially arrives, the weather outside was frightful, but Broadway Backwards gingerly put its best foot forward anyway and managed — even in a blinding snowstorm! — to sell out the century-old Palace Theatre.
It was Annie's night off, so somebody stashed the Christmas tree and borrowed Daddy Warbucks' elegant living room and staircase for a hot-and-topical groom-and-groom union. This occasion, an increasingly common phenomenon, triggered a cluster of gender-bending show tunes — slugged "Wedding Medley," consisting of Cabaret's "Married," I Do! I Do!'s "My Cup Runneth Over" and The Drowsy Chaperone's "Love Is Always Lovely in the End." (This show is nothing if not well-researched.)
This annual fund-raising event — written, directed and choreographed by Robert Bartley (a triple somersault even Noel Coward never attempted) — is produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to benefit BC/EFA and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City. Its objective, seriously said, allows "gays and lesbians [to] see their stories told through the great songs of musical theatre."
Then, less loftily — from a purely acting standpoint — it gives performers a clean, clear, guilt-free shot at songs that they would never, in the best of all possible worlds, get a chance to sing. A megawatt galaxy of stars turned out and tuned up for Edition No. 8.
It was the sort of show where Brian Stokes Mitchell sang about "The Man I Love" and seemed honestly to mean it; where Jan Maxwell held forth with heartfelt intelligence on "How To Handle a Woman"; where "A Weekend in the County" was party-planned within the giddy recesses of a gay gym; where an Irish-jigging Karen Ziemba went home with Bonnie Jean; where Bruce Vilanch and a buttoned-down Malcolm Gets compared their respective lives and concluded "The Grass Is Always Greener" (the Kander-and-Ebb showstopper that won Tonys for Lauren Bacall and the late, great Marilyn Cooper in exactly the same place, the Palace); where Judy Kaye lured Anita Gillette to "Three Sunny Rooms"; where 85-year-old Estelle Parsons recalled the waiting game she played when she "was a young man courting the girls" in "September Song"; where a stewardess was delayed from flying off to "Barcelona" by an overheated Mary Poppins (the Broadway original, Ashley Brown).
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