Photo: Peter James Zielinski
The recent Broadway for a New America benefit at Symphony Space felt like a classic case of bait and switch. I was there to see Judy Kaye and Ann Hampton Callaway, both of whom were mentioned in all the press releases and both of whom did not show up. Oh well, that's the nature of benefits. And this was for a good cause: in support of same-sex marriage. So I settled in to enjoy those performers who did show up.
Unfortunately, Broadway for a New America managed to be a case study of how not to do a benefit. First of all, don't run three and a half hours. It's just too long. Second, don't feature people who aren't any good or are inappropriate or both (eg, the terrible Jolson imitator singing Swanee at a benefit for equal rights--fortunately he spared us the blackface). Third, keep things moving. There should be very very little time between acts. Fourth, don't leave six non-celebs to make speeches late in the evening, one right after the other. God bless 'em for the excellent political work they've done, but six political speeches when the evening is already three hours old is not a good idea! And fifth, don't injure the audience's ears. I understand that yelling is a popular contemporary form of singing, and I often enjoy it, but having to put my fingers in my ears (I wasn't the only one!) did not add to my enjoyment.
The evening did have moments: Robert Klein being quite funny, Christine Pedi purring as Eartha Kitt, Seth Rudetsky's deconstruction of the Brady Bunch Hour, Nellie McKay singing, Alice Playten (pictured above) nailing "The Boy From," and a handful of others. It would have made a kickass 90-minute benefit.