Broadway on Broadway
“Broadway on Broadway,” the event that marks both the end of the long, hot (and wet) summer and the beginning of the much-anticipated new theater season, is upon us. On Sunday, September 10, the stars of Broadway will gather at the center of Times Square, and 50,000 or so fans will join them.
For eight years now, The League of American Theatres and Producers has joined forces with the Times Square Business Improvement District (BID) to bring “Broadway on Broadway” to the public. Nothing generates interest quite like a free concert, and every year on a weekend in early September, the streets are blocked off as the square fills to the brim with theater fans. If it weren’t for the absence of the ball, you might think it was New Year’s Eve.
“It’s a chance for everybody to find out what the theater guys already know,” says BID president Brendan Sexton of the event, which gives the public a chance to get a taste of Broadway’s current and even some of its future offerings. With the recent announcement that NBC4 will be televising the entire concert, there is increased excitement surrounding the event. “This is the first year it’ll be broadcast and web cast live,” says Sexton. “We’re gonna have a bigger show than ever.”
A more modest effort when it first began, “Broadway on Broadway” has grown over the years, and now virtually all the Broadway shows and their stars participate; this year there will be nearly 20 performances in all. “It takes a lot of work by us and League,” says Sexton. The BID and the League work together to produce the show every year, splitting cost and efforts, and working months on planning. “The League does more with producers and talent. We have more responsibility of what happens on the street. We do more of the nitty-gritty.” He also praises the New York Police Department, who will spend weeks in preparation for the mass of people that will descend on the square on the morning of the 10th.
“The thing that I think is great about this event is that everyone there is just like you,” says Ryan Defoe, a New Jersey resident who has been making the trip to the city to see “Broadway on Broadway” for the last four years. “Everyone loves the theatre and is there to celebrate its riches. It is the closest thing that we’ll ever get to a theatre rock concert. And the audience responds like it’s a rock concert; the crowds go crazy. It’s like Betty Buckley is Britney Spears!”
The performances begin at 12 noon and go till about 2pm, giving the actors just enough time to get back to their respective theaters for the Sunday matinee. Of course, if you want a good view of the show, you had better get there pretty early. Die-hard fans usually start arriving around the crack of dawn to claim prime spots in front of the large platform that is set up in the square. Though Defoe admits that he usually only gets there about a half hour before. “I’ve never really had a problem with the crowds. It is very easy to watch, either on the stage or on the Jumbo TV’s.”
As always, stars from all the Broadway musicals will be performing some of the most popular numbers from their shows. Howard McGillin, the current Phantom in <I>The Phantom of the Opera</I> will be singing his character’s signature ballad, “The Music of the Night.”
Ryan Defoe: “The other part that I enjoy is watching the stars when there not onstage. Since its an open-air stage, you can see all the going-on's behind the scenes. You get to see what your favorite performers do before going on. One year, I got to watch Chita Rivera chatting with friends before going on. I like to see the difference between the performance and the performer. Not only how the act offstage, but to watch their performance change in response to the audience in Times Square as opposed to the audiences at the theatre every night. To me, that's what ‘Broadway on Broadway’ is all about!”
Of particular interest will undoubtedly be the songs from shows that haven’t yet opened. Patrick Wilson and John Ellison Conlee will perform “A Man” from The Full Monty, and Marla Schaffel and James Barbour will sing “Secret Soul” from Jane Eyre. Also, the entire company of The Rocky Horror Show will do “The Time Warp.”
Karen Ziemba and Jason Antoon of Contact will play hosts to the event, as will Blair Brown of Copenhagen.
On the performance schedule for “Broadway on Broadway”:<br>
“An Old Fashioned Wedding” – <I>Annie Get Your Gun</I><br>
Cheryl Ladd and Patrick Cassidy<br>
“Cabaret” – <I>Cabaret</I><br>
“Memory” – <I>Cats</I><br>
“My Own Best Friend” – <I>Chicago</I><br>
Jasmine Guy and Charlotte D’Amboise<br>
“Dirty Blonde” – <I>Dirty Blonde</I><br>
Claudia Shear, Bob Stillman, and Tom Riis Farrell<br>
“I Gotcha” – <I>Fosse</I><br>
Shannon Lewis, Ken Alan, and Byron Easley<br>
“This is the Moment” – <I>Jekyll & Hyde</I><br>
“So In Love” – <I>Kiss Me, Kate</I><br>
Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie<br>
“Bring Him Home” – <I>Les Miserables</I><br>
J. Mark McVey<br>
“Last Night of the World” – <I>Miss Saigon</I><br>
Melinda Chua and Michael Flanigan<br>
“Lida Rose/Dream of Now” – <I>The Music Man</I><br>
Rebecca Luker and Quartet<br>
“The Music of the Night” – <I>The Phantom of the Opera</I><br>
“What You Own” – <I>Rent</I><br>
Trey Ellett and Manley Pope<br>
“Endless Journey” – <I>Riverdance</I><br>
Margaret Motsage, Brian Kennedy, and Chorus<br>
“Nights on Broadway” – <I>Saturday Night Fever</I><br>
Paige Price and Orfeh<br>
“Blues in the Night” – <I>Swing!</I><br>
Ann Hampton Callaway<br>
Questions for Howard McGillin
You sing in front of a pretty big audience almost every night, but what’s it like singing in front of 50,000 people? Is it any different? Do you get psyched having all that energy from a restless crowd?
The big news this year is that they’ll be telecasting the event on NBC4. Do you think attendance will suffer at all as a result?
How many times have you participated in Broadway on Broadway?
To a lot of people, Broadway on Broadway is especially exciting because it marks the beginning of the season. Does it strike you that way, though, since you’ve been performing all through the summer? Do you and the rest of the cast pay as much attention to the theatre season, being in a show that’s destined to run pretty steadily for some time?
I think I remember you performing at Stars in the Alley this year too. It’s great that you and so many other Broadway stars perform at these free events. Is there something particularly rewarding about performing at these sorts of events? Do you find the crowd more appreciative perhaps, since they’re usually made up of big fans?
Questions for Jed Bernstein/Brendan Sexton
How did this event get started? Have you been involved from the beginning?
“This is the first year it’ll be broadcast and webcast live.”
I’m constantly amazed at the willingness of everyone to participate. All of the biggest Broadway stars are always there. Was it easy to get everybody’s cooperation from the very beginning?
Took awhile to make it the event that it is now, a few years, only recently getting everyone involved
Anything particularly special about this year’s Broadway on Broadway?
“We’re gonna have a bigger show than ever.” More hosting, more material between numbers
How much time and money goes into organizing an event of this magnitude? How many people are involved?
“It takes a lot of work by us and the League.” Months of planning for BID and League, weeks for New York City Police
How do you feel the theater community as a whole as benefited from Broadway on Broadway? In the past, has there been a noticeable boost in interest and in sales following the event?
“New Yorkers are sometimes too blasé about theater.” Exposure, introduces new shows
“It’s a chance for everybody to find out what the theater guys already know.”
How did the NBC telecast come about? Did you approach them about it? What are the benefits of televising the event? Do you think attendance might suffer as a result of televising it?
“This year, it was mutual – we were looking for each other.”
How did the partnership with the League/BID come about? Who is responsible for what in this dynamic?
“We co-produce it, split 50% of the cost …”
‘The League does more with producers and talent’
“We have more responsibility of what happens on the street. We do more of the nitty-gritty.”