UPDATE 9:30 PM: You could tell it was a Broadway crowd because the evening’s biggest roars came, first, for Bill Clinton and second for Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. With the election three weeks away, a coalition of Democratic party activists, led by producer Harvey
Weinstein and theater owner Jordan Roth, pulled off a fundraiser Monday night at Roth’s St. James Theatre, with meaty portions of star-bait to bring a new round of contributions to the campaign coffers of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
Dubbed “Stronger Together” and live-streamed by the Clinton campaign, the evening was a high-energy mash-up of star turns (Josh Groban sang “Over The Rainbow” and Anne Hathway teamed with Kelli O’Hara to recreate the legendary Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand duet “Get Happy”/”Happy Days Are Here Again”), weighty monologues (Helen Mirren as Eleanor Roosevelt, Angela Bassett as Sojourner Truth delivering her famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech from 1851; Jon Hamm and Jake Gyllenhaal in a scene from Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 It Can’t Happen Here) and Broadway razzmatazz (Stephen Schwartz dueting with O’Hara on “For Good,” from his Wicked score; former Annies Andrea McArdle and Sarah JessicaParker belting “Tomorrow,” Miranda and Renée Elise Goldsberry performing a retailored “The World Was Wide Enough” from Hamilton; Bernadette Peters and Emily Blunt, Sondheiming with “No One Is Alone” and “Children Will Listen”).
Problems with microphones nearly sent emcee Billy Crystal off the deep end at one point, but otherwise, the 2-1/4 hour show was a brisk affair with few glitches and several high points: following a heartfelt welcome from Chelsea Clinton, the brilliant tap dancer Ayodele Casel performed “While I Have The Floor,” a
dazzling tribute to her art that ended poignantly with a litany of the names of the great women tappers who came before her but who rarely achieved the fame of their male contemporaries. (Special kudos here to the camera work, which miraculously focused on Casel’s astonishing feet, something you almost never see in televised performance).
Julia Roberts came on to read the words of the late great political columnist Molly Ivins, but first she sprinkled the room with F-bombs and challenged the audience to cough up $500 per. For the finale, Tony winner Cynthia Erivo turned “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” into a gospel roof-raiser.
The evening had begun with Crystal jaunting through “Hillary Tonight,” a rewrite of Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To The Forum opener devised by Marc Shaiman, with lines like “Nothing with Trump, nothing with Pence/They’d make Joe Stalin feel intense.” He also had a great line about the Republican nominee demanding to see his “bris certificate.”
“Pretty good show,” Crystal commented. It was. And yes, if Donald Trump pulls off a similar showbiz feat, we’ll be there.
EARLIER: Broadway’s St. James Theatre tonight was a runway of stars, hosted by Billy Crystal and the voice of Barbra Streisand subbing for God at a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Sienna Miller joined Joel Grey for the opening and title song from Cabaret, Sarah Bareilles sang about bravery, Neil Patrick Harris performed with a brilliant cast of dancers and, in a surprise appearance just before the break, former president Bill Clinton addressed the crowd in the most persuasive terms about the people his wife will represent as President.
“It’s been a good week for us aging Baby Boomers,” he said, noting that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature and quoting “Forever Young” as an apt anthem. He recalled that the late Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres had told an interviewer he’d preferred to think not about a legacy, but to look to the future. Added Clinton, “We just want to tear down the social totem poles so that we can all rise together.”