The night opened with a welcome from Chita Rivera who told a hilarious story about getting caught with her pants down…literally! During a performance of Guys and Dolls, in which she played Adelaide, she stripped down onstage for a heated rendition of "Take Back Your Mink" to what was supposed to be her skivvies. But much to Miz Rivera’s lament: “I felt this breeze that I had never felt before….I had forgotten to put my panties on!”
The evening continued on with other funny anecdotes and heartfelt tributes from Loesser’s colleagues, friends and family members. Loesser’s wife Jo took to the stage twice to perform, once alongside daughter, Emily and once solo for a moving rendition of “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” from the film Christmas Holiday.
Tony winner Phyllis Newman and John McMartin took a trip to Sesame Street to sing with Grover, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster, who bragged about eating (what else?) “cooookieees!” backstage with Paul McCartney, who sang "On a Slow Boat to China" from the film Neptune’s Daughter.
Of course there were plenty of nods to one of Loesser’s most well-known scores, Guys and Dolls. Actors Fund President, Brian Stokes Mitchell, reprised his role of Sky Masterson from this summer’s Hollywood Bowl concert and sang Luck Be a Lady. While funny man Mario Cantone sang “Sing Down You’re Rockin the Boat” (but not before almost rockin’ himself off a chair he jumped onto, to which he exclaimed “I’m good!” after regaining his balance!)
One of my favorite new composers, Tony Award winner, Tom Kitt, channeled a hybrid of Billy Joel and Jerry Lee Lewis to accompany Birdie cutie Brynn Williams on “Rumble, Rumble, Rumble” from the 1947 film, The Perils of Pauline.
The evening concluded with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying alum John Stamos and company singing “Brotherhood of Man”.
Besides a tribute to one of America’s most celebrated songwriters, hosts Annette Bening, Kevin McCollum and Jonathan Tisch reminded us all why we were there in the first place: to raise money for The Actors Fund, a vital organization in the entertainment industry. From healthcare services to affordable housing to financial assistance, the Actors Fund is a staple to not only those working in theatre, but for professionals in TV, film, dance and music. For more information on all the great work being done by the Fund and how you can help, visit actorsfund.org.