Main | Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Broadway Backwards 3

In which my journey towards full-blown theater queen
approaches Platinum Level....

Last night I attended the fantastic Broadway Backwards 3, the annual benefit for the NYC LGBT Community Center in which Broadway stars perform classic musical theater numbers from a gay perspective - changing pronouns or singing numbers written for characters of the opposite sex. The cast (and the audience!) was a Broadway who's-who not seen outside of the Tony Awards. This year marks the 25th anniversary for the Center.

Some of the performers:
Neil Patrick Harris (TV's "How I Met Your Mother"); Tony Award Winners Gary Beach (The Producers) and Len Cariou (Sweeny Todd); Tony Award nominees Brooks Ashmanskas (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me), Charles Busch (The Tale of the Allergist's Wife), Sandy Duncan (TV's "The Hogan Family," Peter Pan), Malcolm Gets (TV's "Caroline in the City," Amour), and Lainie Kazan (My Favorite Year); Cheyenne Jackson (Xanadu, All Shook Up); Kerry Butler (Xanadu); Anthony Rapp (Rent); Ann Harada (Avenue Q); Julie HalstonGypsy); Michelle Blakely (Annie Get Your Gun); Aaron Lazar (The Light in the Piazza); Tituss Burgess (The Little Mermaid); David Burtka (Gypsy); Tastiskank (Broadway duo of Kate Reinders and Sarah Litzsinger); Karen Mason (Mamma Mia!); Julia Murney (Lennon, Wicked); Jen Colella (High Fidelity); Jose Llana (...Spelling Bee, Rent); Disney's Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Sierra Boggess; and more.
The show was created and directed by Robert Bartley and this year actually played on Broadway in the American Airlines Theater, which was donated by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Co-chairs for the event were the legendary playwright Terrence McNally and composer John Kander.

Emceed by manic man Seth Rudestsky (above left), twenty-one numbers were performed to simple, yet effective and often quite emotional staging. Some personal highlights:

-Lainie Kazan's (left) torchy The Gal That Got Away, from A Star Is Born.
- Neil Patrick Harris and his boyfriend David Burtka singing Take Me Or Leave Me, from Rent. Funny and very sexy.
- Charles Busch's (above right) lovely rendition of The Music That Makes Me Dance, from Funny Girl.
- Little Mermaid lead Sierra Boggess flipping her own show's Kiss The Girl as A Chorus Line's Jessica Lee Goldyn danced for her. Bonus: simulated muff-diving! From a Disney star!
- Len Cariou's (right) moving take on Send In The Clowns from A Little Night Music, which Cariou revealed was originally to be his number in the show.
- Mermaid's Sebastian The Crab, Tituss Burgess ripping the roof off with Maybe This Time from Cabaret. Liza with a Z, Tituss with a T!
- The male ensemble, lead by the impossibly sexy Danny Beiruti and Kevin Reed stripping on stage to I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair from South Pacific. Shower scene! Ripped almost-nekkid hotties! Also: singing.
- The hilarious Brooks Ashmanskas (think a Nathan Lane/Paul Lynde combo), who wowed me in The Ritz, rocking the house with I Want It All, from Baby. I would see anything Brooks Ashmanskas does.
-The closing number, Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop Of Horrors, performed by Anthony Rapp, Cheyenne Jackson and the full ensemble.

See? Platinum status.

After the show, Broadway Backwards publicist Cathy Renna finagled my entry to the cast and "big donors" post-party (open bar, hello) in the rooftop lounge of the theater where my press pass allowed me to elbow into the crowd of TV crews and print journalists jostling for shots and interviews. So there's me with my digicam and them with their fancy big-boy cameras. Sweet. Uh, except I totally walked into the shot while some network was interviewing Cheyenne Jackson. Big, big oops.

ABOVE: Tituss Burgess and Andrea McArdle.ABOVE: Julie Halston, Ann Harada, Charis Leos, Kathryn Kendall. (In what order, though?)ABOVE: Anthony Rapp and Neil Patrick Harris.ABOVE: David Burtka, LGBT Center executive director Richard Burns (sticking his tongue out at me!) and Neil Patrick Harris.ABOVE: Director Robert Bartley.ABOVE: Terrence McNally and his partner Tom Kirdahy, the chair of the the 25h anniversary committee for the LGBT Center.

Just a wonderful, perfect evening for the LGBT Center. Big thanks to Cathy Renna for schmoozing me, Theater Mania photographer Joe for playing Andrea to my Miranda Priestly by pointing out major players unknown to me, and my elusive buddy, writer Josh Moss (right) for being his usual funny self.

More coverage: Photo recap from Theatre Mania. Photo recap, review, and set list from Broadway World.

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