Stars of stage and screen came out to celebrate the work of non-profit organization Only Make Believe November 14 at the St. James Theatre. For seventeen years, OMB has created and performed interactive theatre for children in hospitals and care facilities, an accomplishment that wasn’t lost on any of the attendees or performers. Before partaking in the annual gala, Make Believe on Broadway, theatre’s best reflected on the charity’s mission to free children’s imaginations and aid in the healing process.
Despite host John Oliver’s riffing on the fact that it was a simpler time last Monday, the sentiment on both the purple carpet and throughout the show itself, was one of love for children and the power of theatre. “The simple idea that the imagination lives is simple and effective,” said Jude Law, before being honored for his philanthropy and loyalty to OMB with his reception of The Sir Ian McKellen Award. “The fact that [OMB] puts it into practice is a stroke of genius. Tough times and painful times always come around, it’s a part of life, but I believe storytelling, imagination and make believe can see us through them,” he said.
The evening’s performance, directed by Joe DiPietro (Nice Work if You Can Get It, Memphis), combined levity and sentiment. Ranging from Lesli Margherita’s ostentatious humor in Miller and Hardwick’s “Making Love Alone” to the power ballad “Colored Woman” from Montego Glover, performers wowed the audiences. Michael Cerveris took up his guitar for a self-accompanied rendition of “Pinball Wizard,” which he said he hadn’t sung at the St. James since 1993 when he starred in The Who’s Tommy.
Other highlights from the show included the cast of the Off-Broadway spoof Spamilton, a comical tribute to Jude Law from The Barricade Boys, and Howard McGillin, Broadway’s longest running Phantom, performing “Music of the Night.” To the great delight of his audience, David Bryan debuted a powerful song, “Happiness More or Less,” from his new musical collaboration with Joe DiPietro. Josh Lucas presented Samsung’s Gregory Lee with the Founders’ Award for his commitment to philanthropic causes, and Jonny Lee Miller presented childhood friend Law with his award.
Brad Oscar brought down the house with a special tune from Michael Dansicker, “I’m Gonna Play Annie.” He will start work on Sweeney Todd only one week after Something Rotten closes on January 1. “It’s been two years, but it has been a dream a dream role with an amazing company,” he said of playing Thomas Nostradamus. “There’s a part of me that would love to just have something like this for the rest of my life because it’s everything that I ever dreamed of. Will it be exciting to have a new challenge and a new experience? Sure, that’s what actors do.”
Actor Julie Halston, spoke of other future plans. She hopes her own charity, Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, will emulate the way OMB has been run, even as she begins the run of Off-Broadway’s The Babylon Line. Bryan revealed that his and DiPietro’s Chasing the Song, which had a successful run at La Jolla, is inching closer to Broadway. Meanwhile, Glover looks forward to working on the new musical, Sousatzka, opposite Victoria Clark. “It’s a stunning piece,” she said of the piece by David Shire, Richard Maltby Jr., and Craig Lucas. “It’s really incredible and unlike anything I’ve worked on before. It’s got a great group of creatives and a great acting company.” The production opens in Toronto in March.
Adam Kantor closed the evening with a remarkably poignant and emotional rendition of “If You’re Out There” with a little help from the OMB singers. Kantor, currently on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof, doesn’t know what’s in store for him after the show closes on December 31, but he knows what he would like to be doing. “I’d love to do some Chekhov, like The Seagull. I’d love to do a real classic,” he said. “Overall, I would love to do work that inspires me and is somewhat topical, like Fiddler. Many of the lines from the show have taken on entirely new meaning this week. Lines like, ‘All you do is you curse and you chatter, you don’t do anything,’ and ‘Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness.’ Most importantly, in ‘La’Chaim’ they sing, ‘God would like us to be joyful, even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.’ This is something I think is not only true, not just this week, but also in Only Make Believe’s mission.”
BRAD OSCAR ON ONLY MAKE BELIEVE: