With the extension of the shutdown of live theater through at least January 3, 2021, the ever-creative New York theater community is continuing to go digital with an increasing number of online shows and special events. Coming this week are two exciting star-studded benefits and a major rescheduled awards ceremony that promise to number among the virtual highlights of the summer season.
Obie Awards – Now in its 65th year, the long-running annual celebration of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater was postponed from its previously scheduled dates of May 18 and June 4, in response to the momentous national events of the past months, but the pre-recorded co-presentation of The American Theatre Wing and The Village Voice is now set to stream on Tuesday, July 14, on The Wing’s YouTube channel. The celebration kicks off with a ticketed two-part pre-show fundraiser to support the theater community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with appearances by Saycon Sengbloh and N’Kenge beginning at 6 pm, LaChanze and daughter Celia Rose Gooding at 7, and a sing-along to popular show tunes, accompanied by Adam Michael Tilford and Kenney M. Green from Marie’s Crisis Café and piano bar.
Hosted by actor/writer/comedian Cole Escola, the main event, free to everyone, features an illustrious roster of guest presenters, including Cynthia Erivo, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and Heidi Schreck; an encore number by Sengbloh and Sahr Ngaujah from the Obie-winning Fela!; a special presentation by playwright Michael R. Jackson of his “Memory Song” from A Strange Loop; and an “In Memoriam” segment with Shaina Taub. In addition, cast members from the York Theatre Company, Fiasco Theater, and Broadway revivals of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along will come together for a special performance of “Our Time” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the musical’s Obie Award wins.
Night of A Thousand Judys – Following its first seven years of fabulous sold-out in-person concerts, the 8th annual 2020 installment of the Pride cabaret special, written and hosted by Justin Sayre, will be presented as an online streaming event on Tuesday, July 14, at 8 pm. An all-star virtual line-up of Lena Hall, Natalie Douglas, Nathan Lee Graham, Eva Noblezada, Adam Pascal, Beth Malone, Alice Ripley, George Salazar, Ann Harada, T. Oliver Reid, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jessica Vosk, Spencer Day, Bright Light Bright Light (Elton John, Cher), L Morgan Lee, and Billy Stritch, under the music direction of pianist, arranger, conductor, and singer/songwriter Tracy Stark, pays homage to the legendary Judy Garland with personal tributes and a selection of favorite songs from her iconic career on stage, screen, and recordings.
The digital extravaganza will benefit The Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest comprehensive service and support agency dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ homeless youth. Every year, the organization assists nearly 1,400 at-risk youths through a 24-hour Drop-In Center that provides over 65,000 meals, medical and mental health services through an on-site clinic, and a scattered-site housing program. AFC’s goal is to provide what is needed for them to escape the streets and to live healthy and independent lives. You can watch this entertaining concert and donate to this worthwhile cause at ThousandJudys.com.
Broadway Barks – As both an animal lover and a theater lover, one of my very favorite dates each summer is New York’s premiere outdoor animal adoption program, co-founded by Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters in 1998. Unfortunately last year’s event was cancelled due to construction in Shubert Alley, where it is traditionally held. But in spite of the coronavirus shutdown of the NY theater district this year, the free show, produced and presented by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway.com, will go on virtually, on their websites, YouTube channels, and Facebook pages, on Thursday, July 16, at 7:30 pm.
This 22nd annual installment, streamed for the first time ever, will feature available dogs and cats from adoption agencies around the country, presented by a roster of luminaries, not just from Broadway, but from throughout the US. Celebrities scheduled to make remote appearances with the lovable pets are Alec Baldwin, Laura Benanti, Carol Burnett, Betty Buckley, Danny Burstein, Michael Cerveris, Kristin Chenoweth, Victoria Clark, Alan Cumming, Ted Danson, Ariana DeBose, Raúl Esparza, Gloria Estefan, Sutton Foster, Victor Garber, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Joel Grey, Josh Groban, Jake Gyllenhaal, Julie Halston, Jon Hamm, Emmylou Harris, Sean Hayes, Hugh Jackman, Carol Kane, Andy Karl, Nathan Lane, Laura Linney, Rebecca Luker, Audra McDonald, Malcolm McDowell, Laurie Metcalf, Bette Midler, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Rita Moreno, Bebe Neuwirth, Alex Newell, Kelli O’Hara, Orfeh, Mandy Patinkin, Randy Rainbow, Andrew Rannells, John Stamos, Mary Steenburgen, Will Swenson, Michael Urie, Nia Vardalos, Ben Vereen, Adrienne Warren, and Vanessa Williams.
Peters, who again serves as host, says she’s “excited to be pivoting to an online streaming event this year. We are able to share more animal stories from more shelters across America, with more people.” In its impressive two-decade history, more than 2,000 furry friends have been given the spotlight and approximately 85% of them have successfully found forever homes. As always, funds raised will go to the participating shelters; voluntary donations can be made directly to BroadwayBarks.com or during the stream.