From Broadway to Maui, online theater keeps us entertained
In times of crisis, Broadway artists have been stepping up to help for more than a century. When the show can’t go on they utilize their specialty skills for the greater good.
Founded by seven actresses to aid the World War I effort and the Spanish influenza epidemic, the American Theater Wing established manufacturing shops for uniforms, face masks and clothing, producing nearly two million garments. They organized food drives, sold Liberty Bonds and presented benefit performances and raised seven million dollars between 1917 and 18 (approximately 84 million in 2020). Sixty years later, two organizations were founded to combat the AIDS epidemic. Now merged, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has launched a relief fund for displaced performing arts professionals. More than 20 Broadway producers are matching every donation through www.broadwaycares.org/help2020.
With New York being the epicenter of COVID-19, Broadway has been hard hit. Five-time Tony Award-winner Terrance McNally passed from COVID-19 complications last month, and 52-year-old composer Adam Schlesinger passed last week. Schlesinger’s latest musical, “The Bedwetter,” co-written with Sarah Silverman, was one of the many shows whose opening was postponed due to Broadway’s closure. Nick Cordero, 41-year-old original cast member from “Waitress,” remains in stable condition on a ventilator. Cordero’s 43-year-old co-star, Gavin Creel, in addition to Sara Bareilles, composer of “Waitress,” also tested positive but have recovered. Aaron Tveit, 36-year-old star of “Moulin Rouge” has tested positive, as has 38-year-old Laura Bell Bundy, the original Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde the Musical.” Never short on spirit, more than 900 Broadway wardrobe department workers are now making PPE equipment for New York hospitals. Producers and performers are doing their part too. Providing many free online performances.
For a fun, daily fix visit www.starsinthehouse.com, where Broadway luminaries appear live from their homes. Past episodes can be viewed as well. On Sunday, Bundy and Creel joined the show to announce they were in good spirits, and on Monday a tribute to McNally was presented with a reading of “Lips Together, Teeth Apart.” Stars In The House encourages viewers to donate to The Actor’s Fund, which provides financial assistance for displaced performing arts professionals in addition to funding the Actor’s Fund Home, an assisted living and medical center for retired performing arts professionals.
Opera lovers can visit www.metopera.org which streams a free opera daily. At www.filmedonstage.com, free titles are also added daily. As you scroll through links, you will find performances that include the 2018 London revival of “Funny Girl,” Will Ferrell as President George W. Bush in “You’re Welcome America,” Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones in “Driving Miss Daisy,” and the Tony Award-winning “Pippin” starring Ben Vereen in his most iconic role. At www.broadwayhd.com you will find hundreds of titles. The site offers a seven-day free trial with a monthly membership fee of $8.99 to follow. Their library ranges from classics like Lee J. Cobb in “Death of a Salesman” and Katherine Hepburn in “The Glass Menagerie” to modern productions like “An American in Paris,” “She Loves Me,” “Kinky Boots” and “Indecent,” the powerful Tony Award-winning Best Play of 2017. Many of these same live recordings, including Metropolitan Opera performances, are also available through www.pbs.org/show/great-performances. For a one-time donation of $60 you can watch the entire PBS library.
National Theater Live’s You Tube channel streams performances every Thursday. Tonight they present a contemporary production of “Jane Eyre.” On April 16 NT Live streams “Treasure Island,” followed by “Twelfth Night” on April 23. A new You Tube channel, The Shows Must Go On, has partnered with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to stream touring performances of his musicals weekly. Dance lovers can visit www.marquee.tv to watch recent Bolshoi Ballet productions as well as selected performances from the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
On Maui, ProArts is leading the way in free online theater at www.proartsmaui.com. Last week they streamed the full-length, award-winning “Vindication: Scenes from the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft” by Lin McEwan. The site also offers several short theatrical pieces with new programing debuting frequently.
Maui’s Alexander Academy of Performing Arts has made online dance classes available for $9 per class. “For our current students whose training has been disrupted by the onset of COVID-19, or for the adult who is looking for a way to release the stress of the day, this is how we can serve our community right now,” says director Danelle Watson. For more information visit www.alexanderacademy.info.
Donations are encouraged by all of the Maui performing arts groups on Maui to ensure their survival during this long national struggle.