The New York Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union hosted the annual benefit concert, “Broadway Stands Up for Freedom” on Monday night for a sold-out crowd at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. In a first for the show, Broadway stars and performers honored the NYCLU and ACLU’s work by performing thirteen new songs about civil rights and liberties in the Trump era written expressly for the concert.
The iconic concert was created 15 years ago by aspiring musical theater actors to highlight social injustices and civil rights issues through song and spoken word. Monday's event featured the inaugural “Freedom Award,” given to artist and activist Harry Belafonte for his lifetime dedication to fighting for civil rights and civil liberties. Mr. Belafonte, under the weather and unable to attend in-perso, gave a rousing speech by phone in which he highlighted the importance of standing together and never backing down.
“If there is anyone who understands the unique threat that the Trump regime poses to our cherished freedoms, it is Mr. Belafonte,” said NYCLU Executive Director, Donna Lieberman. “We are so grateful to him and to the many Broadway stars who joined us to sing their songs of protest and to continue the tradition of using music as a force for freedom.”
The star-studded event premiered original songs written and performed by Broadway’s best. At turns emotional, inspiring, funny and wrenching, the songs explored immigration, racism, education equality and resisting the Trump regime — among much more. Hosted by Susan Blackwell (title of show), the show included Tony Award Nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger (Spelling Bee, Peter and the Star Catcher, The Glass Menagerie), and performers including 2017 Tony Award Winner Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly!, Hair, The Book of Mormon) who debuted a song he wrote and played called, “Hold You,” which was sung by Taylor Trensch (Hello, Dolly!, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). David Cale (Lillian) performed a song titled “Klown with Da Nuclear Code,” written by Tony Award Winner Stew. Janet Dacal (Prince of Broadway) sang “Goldfish, Squirrel, Bumblebee” about education equality with lyrics by Nathan Tysen (Amelie) and music composed by Chris Miller (Tuck Everlasting). Tony Award Nominee Adrienne Warren (Shuffle Along) and Doreen Montalvo (On Your Feet, In the Heights) performed “Back when America was Great,” written by songwriter Michael Jackson. Actor Sean Green belted a song from composer Georgia Stitt (Little Shop of Horrors) titled, “The Great American Black & White.”
Other attendees and performers included Tony Award Nominee Brooks Ashmanskas (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me), Tony Award Nominee Brandon Uranowitz (Prince of Broadway, Falsettos), Andréa Burns (On Your Feet!, In the Heights), Andrew Kober (Sunday in the Park with George, Les Miserables), Jenni Barber (Sundays in the Park with George, Annie), Zach Prince (Honeymoon in Vegas), Lucy Walters (Power), Samantha Sherman (The Mend), musical duo Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, Liana Stampur (founding performer) and Clinton Curtis, among others. The night concluded with a special performance by the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus and singer and performer Shaina Taub (Old Hats).
The concert featured the winner of the NYCLU’s first-ever online songwriting contest, Simone Allen. Allen took to the piano to perform her winning song “Never Gonna Stop,” accompanied by the vocals of Shaina Taub.
Original pieces performed at the concert were:
- Susan Blackwell, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Gavin Creel, Taylor Trench with “Addicted,” written by Blackwell and Garrett
- Gavin Creel, Taylor Trensch with “Hold You,” written by Creel
- Michael Friedman with “Undocumented”
- Janet Dacal (Chris Miller accompanying), with “Goldfish, Squirrel, Bumblebee,” written by Nathan Tysen and Miller
- Brooks Ashmankas, Andréa Burns, Zach Prince, Brandon Uranowitz, Dave Wasserman, with “New Frontier,” written by Brian Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan
- Simone Allen, Shaina Taub with “Never Gonna Stop” written by Allen
- Adrienne Warren, Doreen Montalvo with “Back When America Was Great” written by Michael Jackson
- Sean Green with “The Great American Black & White” written by Georgia Stitt
- Jenni Barber, Andrew Kober with “A Polite Conversation” written by Kinosian and Blair
- David Cale with “Klown with Da Nuclear Code” written by Stew
- Liana Stampur, Clinton Curtis, Christopher Ryan Grant, Grace McLean with protest songs written by Stampur and Curtis
- Brandon Uranowitz, with chorus Kyle Branzel, Robert Toms, Rafael Sochokov, Nhlanhla Ngobeni, Josh Greenblatt, William Darling, Alexander Sage Oyen, Sean Patrick Monahan, Andrew Hodge, Christian Noojin, Michael R. Mahady, with “The Sermon on the Mount Part 2,” written by Kooman and Dimond
- Shaina Taub and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with “Huddled Masses,” written by Shaina Taub
The evening was directed by Peter Flynn (Beauty and the Beast) and Daniel Goldstein (Godspell) with music direction by Kurt Crowley (Hamilton).