After six seasons, Rosie O'Donnell officially marked the end of her ABC-TV talk show this morning with a final live telecast. (She mentioned that six more new shows will air over the next six weeks but that they were previously taped).
O'Donnell has championed Broadway on her show since day one, so it was entirely appropriate and unsurprising that Broadway returned the favor with a salute to the star. The opening number of the final show consisted of sequences taped in and around Times Square in which cast members from Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Beauty and the Beast, The Producers, 42nd Street, and The Phantom of the Opera performed songs from those musicals with new lyrics lauding O'Donnell; e.g., Chicago's "Roxie" became a paean to "Rosie." This segued into a live performance in the studio of a "Hello, Dolly!" parody led by John Lithgow, Vanessa Williams, and O'Donnell herself, backed by a chorus consisting of such other Broadway stars and featured performers as Brian d'Arcy James, Justin Bohon, Manley Pope, and our old friend Milky-White from Into the Woods.
O'Donnell's two main guests for the hour were Nathan Lane and Christine Ebersole. Lane described the event as "the biggest gay celebration since Liza's wedding," then garnered a huge laugh with a reference to O'Donnell's highly publicized "coming out" on national television: "I didn't know you were gay! If I'd known, I would have looked for you at the meetings." He also shared some anecdotes of working with George C. Scott in two productions at Circle in the Square, Present Laughter and On Borrowed Time. Later in the show, Ebersole serenaded O'Donnell with Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine." (The fact that she changed the word "gent" to "friend" in the verse indicated that she was addressing the song directly to Rosie but, if that were the case, some of the lyrics might have been considered rather questionable for a tribute; e.g., "Your looks are laughable, unphotographable...")
The program included several nods to O'Donnell's numerous "human interest" guests and their inspiring stories, and ended with a montage of clips.