Start your week with a bang on Monday and Tuesday with two free events that celebrate the stars and shows of Broadway and also raise funds for important charitable causes through your voluntary donations.
It’s been a year this month since COVID-19 shut down live performance venues, and this week also marks a year since host Jim Caruso took his Monday-night open-mic Cast Party at Birdland online, in its new pandemic-time incarnation Pajama Cast Party. For its 51st digital installment, airing on Monday, March 29, beginning at 8 pm, the virtual variety show will feature a first anniversary celebration with a remote roster of surprise guests that are not only a surprise to the audience, but also to Caruso! Producer Ruby Lochner, who appears weekly on the show, planned the line-up without his knowledge, so no one will know who will be on or what to expect till it happens.
Musical guests of past episodes have included such Broadway, jazz, and pop stars as Kristin Chenoweth, Betty Buckley, Melissa Manchester, Clint Holmes, Christine Ebersole, Clifton Davis, Chita Rivera, Jane Monheit, Ariana DeBose, Michael Feinstein, Pam Tillis, Marc Shaiman, Isaac Mizrahi, Mary Wilson, and Toni Tennille. The weekly party also shines a spotlight on emerging talents whose shows, high school musicals, or recitals were cancelled due to the shutdown.
And did I mention that the ever-debonair Jim has finally consented to wearing his pajamas for the occasion? I think we can all rest assured that they’ll be the nattiest PJs ever! You can see for yourself on the Pajama Cast Party YouTube channel, where the video will remain following its premiere on Monday. Viewing is free, but donations are welcome, in support of the show’s weekly contributions to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Actors Fund.
Then on Tuesday, March 30, at 8 pm, Broadway Backwards, produced by Broadway Cares, is set to premiere its first-ever virtual edition. Since it began as a small concert at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in NYC in 2006, the annual event “where gender doesn’t matter but love does,” has expanded into major Broadway theaters and has raised more than $5.3 million for the two organizations.
This year’s online show, written and directed by creator Robert Bartley, features another star-studded Broadway roster, exploring how the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has specifically affected the LGBTQ community, while taking a hopeful musical look towards life post-pandemic. Jay Armstrong Johnson sets the framework as an isolated New Yorker who dreams a fantastical journey guided by a late night television host, portrayed by Jenn Colella.
The streaming includes an opening number with Stephanie J. Block, Deborah Cox, and Lea Salonga; performances by Amy Adams, Debbie Allen, Matt Bomer, Brenda Braxton, Len Cariou, Glenn Close, Loretta Devine, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, James Monroe Iglehart, Cheyenne Jackson, Cherry Jones, L Morgan Lee, Raymond J. Lee, Aasif Mandvi, Eric McCormack, Michael McElroy, Debra Messing, Ruthie Ann Miles, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jessie Mueller, Javier Muñoz, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Jim Parsons, Bernadette Peters, Eve Plumb, Roslyn Ruff, Sis, Elizabeth Stanley, and Tony Yazbeck; appearances by journalists Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Robin Roberts; and special appeals from Chasten Buttigieg, Ariana DeBose, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tony Shalhoub, and Ben Vereen. The company also includes Robert Creighton, Danyel Fulton, Eileen Galindo, Sam Gravitte, Sheldon Henry, Diana Huey, Aaron Libby, Nathan Lucrezio, Melinda Porto, Shelby Ringdahl, Vishal Vaidya, and Blake Zolfo. In addition to the new content, the show will be interspersed with full clips of memorable past performances by even more Broadway luminaries.
Broadway Backwards can be viewed for free around the globe on the Broadway Cares website and YouTube channel, and will be available on demand through Saturday, April 3. You can click here, to make a tax-deductible contribution that will provide healthy meals, counseling, health care, and emergency assistance to the LGBTQ community. And you can watch highlights from the live 2019 concert below: