Bartley Shares Bytes on ’Broadway Backwards’ Benefit
Over an eight-year-span, starting with its humble beginnings in a simple room at the LGBT Center on West 13th Street, "Broadway Backwards" has grown into one of the year’s most anticipated and enjoyable benefits. Where else do you get to hear some of Broadway’s biggest luminaries sing show tunes they never have before -- and never will -- because they were written for people of another gender?
This year’s edition, to be held at 8pm on Monday, March 24 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, will be bigger and better than ever before, says creator and director Robert Bartley. As always, proceeds from the event will go to both Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Center, and Bartley hopes this show will break last year’s fundraising record of $347, 600.
This year, more than 20 stars have signed on to participate in this extravaganza, including Stephanie J. Block, Robin De Jesus, Jonathan Groff, Norm Lewis, Kyle Dean Massey, Andrew Rannells, Max von Essen, and Tony Yazbeck -- not to mention, Tony Award winners Beth Leavel, Debra Monk, Billy Porter, Roger Rees, and Julie White.
"Every year, more and more celebrities come out to support us," says Bartley. "When we started out, I called on people I knew or had acted with. I always credit Charles Busch, who was the first person we asked and who immediately said yes, to give us some recognition. Now, people ask if they can join the show.
Sometimes, we have to say no or we’d have a six-hour show. The most important things is that we have always tried to keep a balance of openly gay performers and straight performers, as well as mix up people from theater, cabaret, television and film."
Asking Bartley who he is most thrilled about having on stage is rather like asking a parent to choose a favorite child, but two performers do come to mind. "It’s wonderful that Len Cariou is coming back again. It’s always a very powerful moment for the audience to have ’Sweeney Todd’ supporting the gay community," he says. "And I am most excited that we will have Patricia Morrison on the stage. She will be 99 years old this month, and she’s still got it. I won’t say exactly what she’s singing, but it is from one of her hit Broadway shows."