"I'm most proud today to be an actor and a part of this community," said Brad Oscar, a.k.a. Franz Liebkind of The Producers. "It's amazing to come together like this because we love our city and we love what we do. I grew up watching all of those 'I Love New York' commercials with all the Broadway stars; I was so excited when they would come on TV. Now here we are, making another one of those commercials--for a very different reason, but celebrating that same spirit."
Oscar was commenting on the massive gathering of star power that occurred in Duffy Square today, within spitting distance of the TKTS booth. Scores of theater actors and other celebs had come together to sing the Kander & Ebb anthem "New York, New York," to talk to reporters, and to pose for the cameras. The performance was filmed for a new "I Love New York" TV commercial that will hopefully induce tourists not be deterred by the World Trade Center tragedy, to visit the Big Apple, and to keep on pumping all of their lovely money into the city's theater attractions (and hotels, and restaurants, and so on).
"This is totally awesome," said Chuck Cooper, currently playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. "Not only are we coming together as a family, but we're going to let the country and the world know that we're still here, we're still kicking. It's also terrific because we never get to see each other; we're in our separate shows. Now we get to catch up with old friends. 'Oh, you're working? That's great!' There's a lot of love going on here."
The sheer quantity of talent on view in Duffy Square today was calculated to impress even the most jaded observer. "This is so star-studded!" exclaimed the one and only Harvey Fierstein. "I'm sorry I left my Autograph Hound at home. I have one of those--you know, that little dachsund with the pen attached to its tail? I wish I had it here with me now! Look, here's Mr. Lane," rasped Fierstein, having noticed that Nathan Lane was standing right next to him. "He has a lot of power in this city now! His picture is bigger in Times Square than Brooke Shields' breasts, and that's something," Fierstein continued as Lane rolled his eyes. (Shields was only a few feet away at the time, but didn't seem to overhear the remark.)
Everywhere you turned this afternoon, some fabulous performer was more than willing to boost New York theater. James Stovall, recently seen in The Rocky Horror Show and in the Actors' Fund of America's benefit concert of Dreamgirls, was obviously exhilarated by the gathering. "What's going on today actually reminds me of Dreamgirls," he told TheaterMania. "To have so much talent in the same place at the same time is phenomenal. It's a shame that it takes tragedy to really go there, but we are an enormous, incredible family. People are giving so much of their time and energy; it says a lot for our city, our culture, and especially for the theater community. We're here to stay. We cannot be destroyed. I think that's obvious on days like today. It's totally overwhelming."
Certainly, the sense of community was palpable during the event. "Theater people are always the first to help out," Harvey Fierstein observed. "You think back to the beginning of the AIDS crisis: We were the first ones there. Giving is something that theater people know how to do. Today, we're saying to the world, 'Everyone you know and love--all those stars you see on the stage and screen--are out here in Times Square, and we want you to come to New York.' Last week, my mom bought tickets to, like, a dozen shows. She's coming to see everything. It's wonderful!"
Some of the stars who assembled in Duffy Square today will be donating their time and energy once again this Sunday, September 30, at the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS Flea Market and Grand Auction. "Oh yes, I'll be there," says Polly Bergen, who made a brilliant Broadway debut in Follies last season. "I'm auctioning some Follies memorabilia in the auction and I'll be at the celebrity table from 2 to 4pm. I'm very excited about this. Are you going to be there? You'd better!"
Originally scheduled for September 23, the event had to be postponed so that BCE/EFA could participate in the memorial service that took place in Yankee Stadium last Sunday. But it will go on this Sunday, better late than never, bringing Broadway stars and Broadway stuff to Shubert Alley as it has in the past.
Starting at 10AM, scads of tables will be set up in and around the alley (which may be found next to the Shubert and Booth theaters and may be entered from 44th or 45th streets). Actors and crews of various shows often man the tables, hawking programs, posters, coffee mugs, baked goods...even props. In years past, such items as a shirt worn by Terrence Mann and a gigantic Coke can from the set of Cats have been sold to devout fans. Many theater-related publications and organizations usually stake out spots as well, selling old magazines, Playbills, videos, and all kinds of obscure collectibles.
Throughout the day, a string of stars will sit down at the Celebrity Table to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans. Among those scheduled to appear this year, in addition to Polly Bergen, are Roger Bart, Malcolm Gets, Valerie Harper, Cherry Jones, Michele Lee, Deven May, Ian McKellen, Donna Murphy, Brad Oscar, Leslie Uggams, and Patrick Wilson.
The most exciting part of the event is the Grand Auction held in Shubert Alley beginning at 4pm, during which unique memorabilia and priceless gifts are sold to the highest bidder. Some of the items in this year's auction include: opening night tickets to shows that will bow on Broadway this season, such as Mamma Mia!, Oklahoma!, and Noises Off; tickets to established hits like The Producers and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife; and photos, posters, and other memorabilia signed by Betty Buckley, Michael Crawford, Joel Grey, Bebe Neuwirth, Tom Selleck, et al. Big ticket items include walk-on appearances in such Broadway shows as 42nd Street, The Producers, and Rent, not to mention such TV shows as Friends and Six Feet Under.
This is the 15th annual Broadway Flea Market. In the past, BC/EFA has used the proceeds of the event to continue the fight against AIDS and to help those suffering from the disease. This year, some of the money raised will go to The Twin Towers Fund, in addition to the $50,000 that BC/EFA has already donated to the fund on behalf of the Broadway community. The Twin Towers Fund was established by Mayor Giuliani in order to aid families of the firefighters, police officers, and others lost in the World Trade Center tragedy.