Monday, June 13e, the stars came to City Hall again after two years to celebrate the Irish Repertory Theater and the musicals of Harold Prince. Audiences were thrilled to see what longtime Artistic Director Charlotte Moore and Production Manager Ciaran O’Reilly had in store for them and by the end of the night, no one was disappointed.
As it was a celebration of the theater company, its supporters and its creative team, the evening began with the presentation of awards and accolades. The artistic winners were two wonderful costume designers who have been creating costumes for theater productions for thirty years, Linda Fisher and David Toser. A video of a collage of their very diverse costumes showed decades of creativity and artistry that demonstrates that the quality of their work, despite the budgets of a non-profit organization, can rival any budget millions of dollars on Broadway.
The Visionary Leadership Award was presented to Loretta Brennan Glucksman, whose philanthropy, activism and diplomacy have improved lives on both sides of the Atlantic. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to a father who was an American postal worker all his life, it’s inspiring to see how she was able to convey her own messages of kindness and generosity.
After the speeches and presentations, it was time for the show and an incredible tribute to the genius of Hal Prince. Joel Grey, who tells us he was ready to give up after some early career disappointments, thankfully changed his mind when a young Mr Prince called him to offer him a role as emcee in a comedy music by Kander and Ebb, Cabaret. We can only wonder how many other struggling actor lives have taken a different trajectory thanks to a call from Mr. Prince.
Throughout the evening, video interviews with The Prince of Broadway featured the songs beautifully performed by a talented cast of performers. Musical director and bandleader John Bell led an incredible orchestra and choir of singers whose voices filled City Hall.
Individual performers for the evening included Mark Evans who started the evening singing Company which was part of an overture celebrating Sondheim’s musicals Forum, Company and happily. He returned later that evening joined by DeLaney Westfall and the choir to sing Grow our garden of the musical Candid. Their harmonies were incredible and beautiful.
Max von Essen and Amanda Jane Cooper showed us why Mr. Prince chose to direct the musical, She loves Me, in 1963, only the second show he directed. Singing the revealing songs of this couple’s love, Vanilla ice cream and She loves MeAmanda and Max, respectively, brought wit and emotion to these wonderful tunes.
After many productions with artists like Kander and Ebb and of course Stephen Sondheim; Mr Prince’s first directorial experience with Andrew Lloyd Weber was Evita and Donna Kane, in a glittering dress that could very well have been designed for the real Mrs Perone, sang his signature song don’t cry for me argentina, reaching the treble so essential to music. Later that night, his other ALW collab came to life as Ciaran Sheehan and Kaley Ann Vorhees duet beautifully with music of the night and All I ask of you of The Phantom of the Opera.
Among these wonderful ballads and love songs, the amusing and catchy Heart of Cursed Yankees brought levity to the evening performed by William Ballamy, Jonathan Hadley, Jay Aubrey Jones, Ashley Robinson, the choir and the grateful audience.
Glenn Close was scheduled to appear on stage in person, but was unable to attend, so she was able to send in a video of herself singing a heartfelt vocal send the clowns. She wasn’t the only Tony-winning performer and Broadway legend who wowed audiences that night. Howard McGillen, who was the Ghost of Broadway for 2,544 performances, was able to sing without a mask not a day goes by By of We ride happily. It was a pleasure to hear her sing the song, which in the musical is sung by the character, Beth, giving a male voice to the tune.
All of these performers were top notch; but, there were three wows in the evening as the creators of the roles they created on Broadway took the stage to the audience’s ovations. Michel Bell, who played Joe in the 1994 production of Showboatproved that his baritone was still as strong as it was 25 years ago when he was singing Ol’ Man River in this Tony Award-winning production.
Len Cariou, who just presented a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement to his Sweeney Toddostar Angela Lansbury brought this main character back to life with a mix of Sweeney Todd and pretty women. It was thrilling to watch him recreate this Tony-winning character for.
Chita Rivera, WOW, CHITA!, the original Anita of West Side Story sang a medley from that show, beginning with the iconic lyrics, “A boy like that who would kill your brother.” Well she killed it herself by singing and doing a few dance steps to America. She continues to prove what a Broadway legend is.
The whole evening was a fantastic tribute to the Irish Repertory Theater and a reminder of why this company has been such an artistic asset to New York since Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’Reilly opened in 1988.