Marking both the end of the summer (sigh!) and the beginning of the new theater season (yeah!), Broadway on Broadway is back. On Sunday, September 10, stars of the Great White Way will gather to perform a free concert in the center of Times Square--and some 50,000 fans are expected to cheer them on.
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. "It's a chance for everybody to find out what the theater business guys already know," says BID president Brendan Sexton of the event, which annually gives the assembled throng a taste of Broadway's current and future offerings. With the recent announcement that it will be televised by NBC4, there is increased excitement surrounding this year's B on B. "This is the first year it'll be broadcast and webcast live," says Sexton, "and we're gonna have a bigger show than ever."
A more modest effort when it first began, Broadway on Broadway has grown to the point where nearly every Broadway show now participates; this year, numbers from 19 shows are scheduled to be performed. "It takes a lot of work by us and the League," says Sexton of the event's planning and organization. "The League deals more with the producers and the talent; we have responsibility for what happens on the street." Sexton also praises the New York Police Department, which spends many man-hours preparing for the mass of people that will descend on the square for the concert.
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, says "The thing that's great about this event is that everyone there is just like you; everyone loves the theater and is there to celebrate its riches. It is the closest we'll ever get to a theater rock concert--and the audience responds like it's a rock concert. The crowd goes crazy."
Howard McGillin, currently the lead in The Phantom of the Opera, will be singing the Phantom's signature ballad, "The Music of the Night," at B on B. "There's something special about being in the center of New York City," enthuses McGillin, who participated in the event last year as well. "Your rock star fantasies come true," he admits, echoing Defoe's sentiments. McGillin acknowledges that there's a big difference between performing on a Broadway stage and playing to 50,000 screaming fans on an outdoor platform. "I think Broadway on Broadway is unique in that it reaches that huge audience simultaneously," he says. "And there's a wonderful sense of community in sharing the stage with your peers from other shows."
Clearly a lot of fun for the performers as well as the fans, Broadway on Broadway also serves as a terrific promotional tool. Even for regular theatergoers, it can be helpful in letting them know what's out there--and what's coming. Cast members from the Broadway-bound musicals Jane Eyre, The Full Monty, and The Rocky Horror Show, all of which are scheduled to open later this season, will present numbers from those shows on the 10th.
The concert will run from 12 noon to about 2pm, giving the performers just enough time to get back to their respective theaters for the Sunday matinee. If you're planning to attend Broadway on Broadway and you want to have a good view, you had better get there pretty early; die-hard fans usually start arriving around the crack of dawn to claim prime spots. But the giant TV mounted on the famous building at One Times Square will allow everyone to follow the action.
Karen Ziemba and Jason Antoon of Contact will host this year's event along with Blair Brown of Copenhagen. Following is a complete list of songs and performers scheduled to be showcased in Broadway on Broadway:
"Secret Soul" from Jane Eyre (Marla Schaffel and James Barbour)
"A Man" from The Full Monty (Patrick Wilson and John Ellison Conlee)
"The Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Show (Company)
"An Old Fashioned Wedding" from Annie Get Your Gun (Cheryl Ladd, Patrick Cassidy)
"Cabaret" from Cabaret (Lea Thompson)
"Memory" from Cats (Betty Buckley)
"My Own Best Friend" from Chicago (Jasmine Guy and Charlotte d'Amboise)
"Dirty Blonde" from Dirty Blonde (Claudia Shear, Bob Stillman, and Tom Riis Farrell)
"I Gotcha" from Fosse (Shannon Lewis, Ken Alan, and Byron Easley)
"This is the Moment" from Jekyll & Hyde (Sebastian Bach)
"So In Love" from Kiss Me, Kate (Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie)
"Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables (J. Mark McVey)
"Last Night of the World" from Miss Saigon (Melinda Chua and Michael Flanigan)
"Lida Rose"/"Dream of Now" from The Music Man (Rebecca Luker and Quartet)
"The Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera (Howard McGillin)
"What You Own" from Rent (Trey Ellett and Manley Pope)
"Endless Journey" from Riverdance (Margaret Motsage, Brian Kennedy, and Chorus)
"Nights on Broadway" from Saturday Night Fever (Paige Price and Orfeh)
"Blues in the Night" from Swing! (Ann Hampton Callaway)