A hush fell on the capacity crowd, who were all admitted free-of-charge, as the lights dimmed for the beginning of the celebratory event, which was simply titled Broadway's Back!
From the darkness came the familiar Drowsy Chaperone line, "I hate the theatre." Drowsy's Man in Chair (who, of course, loves the theatre) spiced his opening monologue with references to the strike, noting that Sophocles never had to worry about load-in costs, that he'd rather have been in the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre for the new Tom Stoppard play (Rock 'n' Roll) than home watching "Heroes" and that the 19 days without Broadway were the "worst three weeks of my life." He concluded by announcing — to wild applause — "Broadway's long, dark night is over!" The lights came up to reveal Bob Martin, one of the Tony-winning creators of Drowsy Chaperone's creators and its original Man in Chair.
Martin went to his onstage refrigerator to see what he could offer the audience to drink, but it wouldn't open, so he called for help, which arrived from the wings — two stagehands (more applause). They were able to open the uncooperative appliance, which revealed two-time Tony winner Bernadette Peters inside.
Peters sat Martin back in his chair as she belted out "There's No Business Like Show Business" from Annie Get Your Gun (Peters performed that show on the Marquis stage a few years back). The fridge opened again, and (almost) all of Broadway poured forth, including cast members from A Chorus Line, Rock 'n' Roll, Spamalot, Young Frankenstein, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Chicago, Jersey Boys, Hairspray, The Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q, Rent, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Mamma Mia!, The Seafarer, Xanadu, Grease, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spring Awakening, Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and Wicked.
Cheyenne Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Max von Essen, Laura Bell Bundy and eventually the whole ensemble joined Peters in the Irving Berlin show-biz standard as a giant "Broadway's Back!" sign was displayed. Man in Chair then took a few moments to chat with the folks filling his apartment. He spoke with the Jersey Boys about their first show back with a new Frankie Valli (Michael Longoria) and with Seth Fisher of Rock 'n' Roll about this season's plethora of plays. Martin was then interrupted by a knock at the door.
In walked Bob Saget, Drowsy's current Man in Chair, who said he'd heard music the other night, liked it and wondered if he could borrow the recording. "You can't just come over to someone's apartment and ask to borrow their Gypsy without specifying which one," Martin said. He finally ushered Saget out the door with a Linda Lavin bootleg, turned around and was interrupted by another knock ("David Hyde Pierce, David Hyde Pierce," fingers crossed).
The knock, however, came from none other than four-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury, who'd come to sing Mame's "We Need a Little Christmas" to give Broadway's holiday season a boost. Lansbury, in wonderful voice, began the classic tune and was then joined by Kerry Butler, Stephanie J. Block, Lea Michele and the whole ensemble, finishing with "Broadway's back in business now" as confetti fell through the entire theatre.
Scott Hale is the Off-Broadway program editor for Playbill Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
Actors from Is He Dead?, Farnsworth Invention, The Seafarer, Jersey Boys and Hairspray discussing returning to work after the strike.