The 12th annual Broadway Stands Up for Freedom benefit concert was a bona fide smash. A cast of Broadway's finest – including Tony winners Lena Hall and nominees Celia Keenan-Bolger (Glass Menagerie), Condola Rashad (The Trip to Bountiful) and Robin de Jesus (In the Heights) – took the stage at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Monday night to celebrate the work of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We’re so grateful to the extraordinary artists who joined us to honor the vital link between civil liberties and the arts,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “This year’s show was outstanding thanks to the generous donations of time, heart and talent by the company. Bravo to all the performers!” Quiara Alegria Hudes, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, provided opening remarks, thanking the NYCLU for building civil rights protections “brick by brick.” Powerful musical performances and irreverent sketches included tributes to Pete Seeger and Maya Angelou, new music by Broadway composer Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Angels in America), and sets by bands Sky-Pony and Hem. On the lighter side, raconteur and radio personality Seth Rudetsky skewered Donny and Marie Osmond‘s version of Fiddler on the Roof’s “L’Chaim” in one of his signature deconstructions, and the Keenan-Bolgers – Drama Desk-winner Celia and multimedia pro, brother Andrew – presented a hilarious video for the concert featuring jokes and commentary by dozens of other Broadway stars.
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NYCLU staff graced the Skirball stage as raucous backup singers to musical prodigy Zachary Unger (Newsies) for a performance of Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer.” Closing out the show, Adam Chanler-Berat (Peter and the Starcatcher) offered a moving “How Glory Goes,” followed by a performance of “Til We Reach that Day” by high school students studying at Pace University. The evening also featured Telly Leung (Glee), Todd Buonopane (30 Rock, Cinderella), Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide…), Justin Guarini (Romeo and Juliet) and founding performer Liana Stampur, with Clinton Curtis and the Clinton Curtis Band. Broadway Stands Up was staged by Daniel Goldstein, director of Broadway’s 2013 revival of Godspell, with Paul Staroba (Gentleman’s Guide) serving as musical director and Susan Blackwell (NOW.HERE. THIS) acting as host. Proceeds from the show support the NYCLU’s youth programs, including its work with LGBT teenagers; its Teen Activist Project, which engages New York City teens as organizers and peer educators on civil rights and civil liberties issues; and its work to stop overly aggressive policing and zero-tolerance discipline in the city’s public schools.