by Marialena Rago
With little Broadway content to enjoy, I have felt very defeated this year. 2020 took a lot from a lot of people and for me it took away the one place that I loved more than anything. But leave it to NBC and Philly girl Tina Fey to bring light into my life this holiday season with the Best of Broadway that aired last night! The two-hour singing and dancing special brought together the casts and crews of current Broadway shows like Ain’t Too Proud, Chicago, Jersey Boys, Diana, Jagged Little Pill, and Fey’s Mean Girls (and cast member Mary Kate Morrissey who is also from Philadelphia) for performances to keep our spirits high. It also featured songs by music icons like Patti LaBelle (also from Philly!), Kelly Clarkson and Barbra Streisand.
This salute to Broadway mixed performances and testimonials from theater actors like Nathan Lane, Billy Porter, Sutton Foster, John Stamos, and our city’s own Leslie Odom, Jr. and Rob McClure. They talked about the importance and magic of theater, and memories of their opening nights. This special’s goal was to raise money and awareness for Broadway Cares, a non-profit organization that is helping to provide groceries, medication and health care, and financial assistance to those in the Broadway community this year. Actors, dancers, stagehands, ushers, ticket takers, costume designers, set designers and so many more are struggling through this pandemic. They’ve been out of work since Broadway shut down on March 12th and, as of now, theatres will remain closed until June 2021.
If you’ve ever seen a theatre performance around the holidays, especially on Broadway, you would recognize the iconic red bucket that was seen on NBC last night. At the end of every Broadway show, this bucket would be held by ensemble members stationed at the exits. There would be raffles- like a backstage experience or a poster signed by the whole cast- to benefit all those who are a part of the theater community. This year, Broadway Cares obviously can’t do raffles and collect money in theaters. But the theatre community needs your help now more than ever.
What I love about these specials is that they bring the joy of theater to those who don’t get to experience it in person. Right now, that’s all of us. Last night reminded me of all the things I love and miss about theater- the music, the stories, the community, the catharsis that it can bring to audience members. In these challenging times we all need a cathartic moment. Maybe a moment to just enjoy the music and the joy theater can bring.
One Night Only: The Best of Broadway is now streaming on NBC, Hulu and Peacock. To donate to Broadway Cares, visit broadwaycares.org/help2020.