Held at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on March 10, Broadway Backwards is a celebration of the LGBT community hosted by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York. The organizations raised a record-breaking number of funds totalling $466,717 which will benefit the Center and the community. The evening was hosted by Broadway vet and comedienne Julie Halston and Honeymoon in Vegas' Rob McClure, featuring a 66-person cast and onstage orchestra of 13 performing some of the most memorable songs of musical theatre. The festivities kicked off with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Fiddler on the Roof's "Matchmaker," in which Robin De Jesus (La Cage aux Folles), McClure and Micah Stock (It's Only a Play) dedicated the tune to the dating apps on their cell phones.
Click through to learn about the some of the showstoppers from the one-night-only event.
The original "Brady Bunch" star turned 81 this February but you wouldn't guess it from her lively performance. The Broadway favorite was all elegance in a 70's-style red pantsuit, cheekily dancing and flirting with the ensemble while singing "There's Nothing Like a Dame." The saucy musical number featured a whole lot of butt-slapping, but Henderson added a touch of class and had the crowd in stitches. The piece finished with her and "Brady Bunch" maid Alice entwined in a long kiss.
Host Julie Halston returned to the stage as the aggressive coach of an all-female baseball team. She warned the audience to expect a string of bad lesbian jokes that would only "get worse," and they did, to the crowd's delight. Led by Colella (If/Then) and Stanley (On the Town), the team of talented ladies delivered a hilarious rendition of "The Game."
"Cell Block Tango"
Performed by Josh Buscher-West, Marty Lawson, Alfie Parker Jr., Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, Alex Ringler and Ryan Steele with Greg Roderick
By John Kander and Fred Ebb from Chicago
An audience favorite, the all-male rendition of "Cell Block Tango" had the crowds roaring. The talented performers showed off their faux tattoo-covered bodies and dancers' agility in the perfectly choreographed number. According to Shawma M. Hamic (The Last Ship), the boys opted to even get tattoos in places the audiences would never see. "There were some butt tattoos," the star revealed at the event's after-party. Hamic's closing number, a rendition of "I Am What I Am," from La Cage aux Folles was also a highlight. Her gospel-style rendition had the entire audience on their feet in standing ovation as the evening came to an end. Hamic told Playbill.com she was encouraged to "Preach to the people!"
Broadway vet Harvey Evans has had an impressive career spanning several decades. His stage credits include such classics as Sunset Boulevard, Gypsy and Hello, Dolly! The original "Mary Poppins" Chimney Sweep was joined onstage by Jim Brochu, star of the acclaimed The Big Voice: God or Merman? in a heart-warming rendition of "It's Never Too Late to Fall In Love." Starting side by side seated on a park bench, the musical number had Brochu following Evans around the stage, trying to convince them that even at their age, true love was attainable.
Tony winner Hall introduced her number by saying it was how she imagined being in conversation with her "lady flower." In a deep, throaty voice she delighted the audience with lyrics such as "Just feed me and you know what kinda eats/The kinda red hot treats/The kinda stick licky sweets I crave." The true rock star that Hall is, she delivered a powerful, knock-out performance.
"And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going"
Performed by Tituss Burgess with Charl Brown, Jaime Cepero, Steven Cutts, Brandon Pearsons, Dennis Stowe and Curtis Wiley
By Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen from Dreamgirls
That boy can belt. There was no doubting Burgess' ability to hit those high notes as he gave it his all and finished in an emotional heap while re-enacting the powerful number from Dreamgirls. The final song before intermission, the performance had the entire audience on their feet in standing ovation. At the after-party Burgess said that this was his sixth time supporting the "extraordinary" event and that it had become a kind of "tradition" for him.
There's no stopping the Tony-winning White, who bounded onto the stage as if launched from a catapult. The star was beautiful and dazzling in a silver sequined ensemble; but the real showstopper was her ever-powerful voice. White added a funky, disco flavour to the classic song. She had the crowd guffawing when she stopped mid-way through the song to proclaim, "Stop the music, I forgot the f*cking lyrics!" Throwing her head back and laughing loudly, she started the number from scratch again.
The Porgy and Bess and The Phantom of the Opera star blew audiences away with his moving rendition of "Home" from the groundbreaking musical The Wiz. With his rich baritone voice filling the entire theate, the performance was one of the evening's truly heartfelt, stellar performances.
Well-Strung's Edmund Bagnell, Christopher Marchant, Daniel Shevlin and Trevor Wadleigh proved that even when performed by a string quartet, the hit song from "Frozen" remains just as catchy and brilliant. The talented musicians delivered a fine performance balanced with just the right amount of comedy.
Here is a clip with a few of the high points: