When she heard the news of the Broadway shutdown, Rosie O'Donnell kicked into gear. The former daytime talk show host (and Tonys host) regularly championed Broadway shows on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, inviting casts to perform for her studio and at-home audience. She reignited that support in the wake of the shutdown with a one-night-only return of her show streaming March 22. Packed to the brim with stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Estefan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Laura Benanti, Jeremy Pope, Jordan Fisher, and Idina Menzel—along with video messages from Annette Bening, Marisa Tomei, Bernadette Peters, and more, the show raised over $600,000 for The Fund.
The Actors Fund continues to provide help to everyone in entertainment, especially during this time of need. Click here to donate.
In case you didn’t hang in for the full three-and-a-half-hour return of The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Playbill has the highlights here:
Adrienne Warren Singing in Her Bathtub
The star of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical joined Rosie from the most acoustically sound room in her apartment: her bathroom! Lounging in her bubble bath, Warren (who earned a Tony nomination for her last Broadway outing in Shuffle Along) belted out Turner’s “Simply the Best”—with full on mini-saxophone solo.
Patti LuPone Performing a Double Bill
One is never enough from the Company star. The two-time Tony Award winner sang “100 Years From Today” a cappella. The song by Victor Young was first made popular in the 1930s by Ethel Waters. Then, LuPone sang King Cole’s “Smile.” Listen to that vibrato. Legendary.
Audra McDonald and Will Swenson Soothing Us With a Familiar Lullaby
The Broadway power couple serenaded viewers with their own gentle version of “Smile.” McDonald began in her sweet soprano, accompanied by her husband on guitar—who also joined in for a duet at the end. “Smile though your heart is aching / Smile even though it's breaking / When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by.”
Kristin Chenoweth Putting Some Pep in Our Step
The pint-sized soprano brought killer vocals and humor to the broadcast when she sang our new favorite rendition of “Taylor the Latte Boy.” Chenoweth sang the song by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich on her album As I Am, has performed it in concert, and even sang it on O'Donnell's show back in 1999, but there was nothing like hearing it live from her kitchen—Starbucks cup in hand.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim Wishing Each Other ‘Happy Birthday’
The titans of musical theatre share the March 22 birthday. The two exchanged video birthday messages: Lloyd Webber wishing Sondheim a happy 90th by playing the melody of “The Night Waltz” from A Little Night Music with birthday lyrics, and Sondheim wishing Lloyd Webber a happy 72nd by washing his hands for 30 seconds and singing (what else?) “Happy Birthday.”
Watch This Epic Video of Broadway Stars Singing Birthday Wishes and Sondheim Tunes to Wish Stephen Sondheim a ‘Happy Birthday’
Rosie Donating $100,000 on Air
While chatting with Actors Fund Chairman of the Board Brian Stokes Mitchell, O’Donnell pledged her own contribution to the organization of $100,000. The full broadcast was a public fundraiser, asking viewers for donations, and O’Donnell led by example. At that point in the broadcast—including O’Donnell’s donation—The Rosie O’Donnell Show had raised over $300,000.
Tituss Burgess Channeling Bette Midler
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star and Broadway favorite chose to accompany himself (in his rose-petaled and candlelit bathroom) on Bette Midler’s “The Glory of Love.”
Ben Platt “Making It Feel Like My Musical Little Fireplace”
We cozied up as the Dear Evan Hansen Tony winner accompanied himself to Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” His smooth vocals (that rich lower register, that floating falsetto, that belt) and heartfelt performance provided the comfort viewers needed. We felt the love.
Alan Menken Playing His Epic Disney Medley
The Disney maestro joined Rosie from his home, playing a full mash-up of tunes from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Tangled, and Enchanted (and a bit of Little Shop of Horrors, too).
Neil Patrick Harris Wowing With At-Home Magic
The Tony-winning performer and fellow former Tonys host called in assistance from his twins Gideon and Harper for a magic trick with Rosie. Though “a simple card trick,” it still left us wondering: How does he do that?
Kelli O’Hara Ringing the Rafters With Her Soprano
In honor of Sondheim’s birthday, O’Hara sang “Take Me to the World” from his Evening Primrose, proving you can never hear too much Kelli O’Hara.
Billy Porter Stopping the Show With a Single Verse
Though time was running short, Tony and Emmy Award winner Porter insisted on singing before he left the broadcast. Bedazzled and bedecked, he sang a single, emotional verse of “Not While I’m Around” from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
Shoshana Bean Acting for the Gods
Not only is the former Elphaba a sensational beltress, she continues to give full story in every performance, and this rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl was no exception.
Lea Salonga Reprising Her Mulan Anthem
The Miss Saigon Tony winner shared her singular voice in a performance of “Reflection” from the Disney animated film Mulan. Her world tour might be canceled, but we are grateful to have heard her sing in this moment.
Gavin Creel Singing and Playing While (Likely) With Coronavirus
The Tony Award winner first began by saying that, although he has not been tested, he believes he has coronavirus. The Hello, Dolly! star has been suffering from a “cruddy flu,” has lost his sense of taste and smell, but has been self-quarantined. Some of his castmates from Waitress in London have tested positive and Creel has been taking precautions since returning to the States. Yet, even with these symptoms, Creel managed a swoon-worthy performance of “You Matter to Me” from Waitress while accompanying himself.
Barry Manilow Closing Out the Show
The Special Tony recipient, Grammy winner, and forever Copacabana-lover, who has appeared four times on Broadway, performed the finale of the show, “Daybreak,” as O’Donnell sang along.