Broadway's love affair with Rosie O'Donnell ends May 22 when the talk-show host/stand-up comic ends her celebrated six-year run as host of ABC-TV's "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."
O'Donnell's final show — 10 AM ET — will pay tribute to The Great White Way and will begin with a star-studded production number featuring cast members from Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, 42nd Street and The Producers. Vanessa Williams (Into the Woods), John Lithgow (The Sweet Smell of Success), Brad Oscar (The Producers) and Sutton Foster (Millie) will also take part in the opening extravaganza.
O'Donnell's guests for her last live broadcast include Tony winners Nathan Lane and Christine Ebersole, two O'Donnell favorites who have appeared on her show numerous times. There are other special surprises lined up for the gala goodbye broadcast, a spokesman for the show commented.
On her syndicated show, O'Donnell often featured performances from Broadway musicals and such theatre stars as Betty Buckley, Jennifer Holliday and Patti LuPone, who joined O'Donnell when they opened the 1998 Tony Awards telecast. The Long Island native was particularly enthusiastic about three musicals: Titanic and The Lion King, which both went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical; and Seussical, the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical in which she later starred for a limited engagement.
Disney's The Lion King announced today that two seats in its New Amsterdam Theatre will now bear a plaque that reads "This seat honors and thanks Rosie O’Donnell." O'Donnell's final week began May 20 with an episode dubbed "Rosie Unplugged," which featured the former star of Broadway's Grease! looking back at her favorite moments of the show's run. Tuesday's program included chats with a "superkid" as well as interviews with "Today Show" co host Katie Couric and singer Marc Anthony.
Previously taped but unaired episodes of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" will continue to air through June 27, and reruns of the acclaimed talkfest will air in July and August. Actress Caroline Rhea, who has hosted O'Donnell's show numerous times, will officially take over as host come September, although the show's time slot has yet to be announced. With a working title of "The Caroline Rhea Show," the program will feature John McDaniel — who served as conductor of Rosie's band for the length of her run — as a special Broadway correspondent. McDaniel recently announced he would not continue with the program on a full-time basis in order to pursue other ventures.
—By Andrew Gans