Rosie O’Donnell’s three and a half hour YouTube special for the Actors Fund has just ended. O’Donnell herself donated $100,000 and raised another (at least) $400,000 from viewers. The money goes to all the out of work actors and crew currently suffering through the temporary closure of Broadway.
Rosie and producer Erich Bergen (actor from “Madame Secretary” among other productions) brought together dozens upon dozens of Broadway stars including anyone who’s anyone from the Great White Way. She even added Barry Manilow and Gloria Estefan.
What was so impressive is that all these people performed from home, many accompanying themselves on the piano or guitar. They didn’t wear make up. They had bad lighting and sound. The show was as homemade as it could have been. But it was a total delight.
Rosie herself hosted the show from the garage/art studio of her house in Saddle River, New Jersey. She wore no makeup herself, and the lighting was adequate, let’s say. But she was at her best, no politicizing, just talking her love of Broadway with all the stars. Behind her on the floor there seemed to be some detritus. It took Harvey Fierstein to finally say, “At least I cleaned up my crafts room!” Rosie replied: “It’s paint on the floor. It doesn’t come up!”
Where else, how else could we have seen so many top line stars, all talking off the cuff, singing out their hearts. This was pretty brave. The show, when the dust settles, has to be preserved for Broadway history. What a coup!
Of course, we got to hear two versions of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”– one from Patti Lupone and the other from Audra McDonald and Will Swenson. Kelli O’Hara sang, so did Adrienne Warren from her bathtub full of water! Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber sang “Happy Birthday” to each other! Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker did a rare interview together. It was pretty swell!
The show had echoes of Edward R. Murrow’s “You Are There” and Golden Age of Television. No artifice. And frankly, Rosie should have a daily show again.
Dip in anywhere, or watch it from beginning to end. Rosie and Erich made history tonight.