“I want all of the dogs and cats to get adopted today!” Bernadette Peters exclaimed, taking her seat at the autograph table. Before the festivities officially began at 5 p.m. that evening, she arrived at noon to sign posters, books, Playbills, and more, along with snapping several pictures alongside eager fans.
With her declaration (and clear excitement written across her face) Broadway Barks began in Shubert Alley. Broadway fans lined up around the block in anticipation to meet some of their favorite stars and the equally adorable animals that would be making appearances as well. The crowd was filled with people of all ages. Some were attending for the first time, while for others, this wasn’t their first rodeo.
While in line for Bernadette’s autograph, mega-fan Lauren-Tara Weinman spoke with bubbling enthusiasm and a smile from ear-to-ear. This event marked her 10th time at Broadway Barks (over the course of its 15 year-long run) and was ready to get the show on the road- even before the majority of fans had arrived!
“Right now [the turnout] is pretty average…it’s going to get crazy,” she promised. “It’s always packed, it’s always, always 2,000 people.”
Lauren-Tara has been supporting Bernadette since watching her perform in Gypsy ten years ago. Since then, she has discovered the cause Bernadette is so passionate about, and has marched proudly alongside her. She flies straight across the country (from Los Angeles to New York) specifically for Broadway Barks every year.
Due to her experiences, Lauren-Tara knew exactly what the Broadway Barks newcomers (such as myself) would get out of the event.
“They’re going to gain an awareness of the problems in shelters, which is not just overpopulation but it’s also the lack of money to do something about that and make better conditions,” she said. “They’re going to be able to see some really cute dogs and cats, and they’re going to be able to see their favorite Broadway star!”
Lauren-Tara was absolutely correct. The cuteness of the animals and theatre star quality were overflowing in Shubert Alley. She was only one of the thousands of people who showed up for Broadway Barks, and as she predicted, it did “get crazy.”
Bernadette and her special guest host Harvey Fierstein took the stage with a jubilant introduction that afternoon. Bernadette was beaming at the sight of the enormous crowd before her, and with their warm welcome to the fans for coming out, Broadway Barks was underway! Overall the day was filled with lots of laughs, swoons, and puppy love, and was considered a definite success. Some of the event’s biggest highlights involved Broadway’s brightest stars!
Jersey Boys opened the evening with a pitch perfect performance of one of their show tunes “Beggin’,” which featured one of Stage Door Dish’s favorites: Andy Karl! Matt Bogart, Drew Gehling, and Dominic Scaglione, Jr. wowed the crowd as well, and with these puppies longing to be taken home that day, the song definitely got everyone ready to go!
The adoption ceremony kicked off with Annie stars Jane Lynch, Lilla Crawford, and Clarke Thorell showing off some undeniably sweet little pups that would be up for adoption just a few tables away. Jane got a few kisses from her pooch, which received so many swoons from the audience!
The festivities continued with many more of our favorites and their tail-wagging pups, and after some of its cast members performed on “A Capitol Fourth” this year in honor of Independence Day, it’s clear that no celebration is complete without Motown: the Musical! Bernadette positively gushed over this divine new show before its actors came on stage. Charl Brown, Bryan Terrell Clark, Brandon Victor Dixon, Morgan James, and Valisia Lekae were eager to support this cause. Valisia was paired with a rather furry dog, and jokingly compared the pooch’s luxurious locks to her own! “She’s got really great hair. I should know a thing or two about that.”
Soon after, we were seeing double…or should I say quadruple? The famous quartet of Matilda leading ladies made appearances as well, along with Bertie Carvel, Gabriel Ebert, Lauren Ward, and Lesli Margherita. They presented in groups- first Bertie with Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro. Judging by Bailey’s hairstyle, it was safe to say that she had performed as the title role just a few hours earlier (their theatre was right next door to the event) and yet she and the other girls were as energized and happy as everyone else! Lesli, Gabriel, and Lauren went on right after. Lauren was fueled with passion, imploring her audience to adopt the dog she was presenting. “Come on, come on! She needs a home everybody!” Lesli made some wise-cracking jokes and had the crowd in stitches, as usual!
Poise personified, Patina Miller came onstage later in the day along with her fellow Pippin players Matthew James Thomas, Terrence Mann, Andrea Martin, Charlotte d’Amboise, and Rachel Bay Jones. Andrea showed off a dog named Mr. Chips, who had been given up because his previous owners claimed he was “a biter.” Andrea defended him by saying, “Has he bitten me yet? I don’t think so!” The Pippin crew loved these animals, especially Terrence, who seemed to be having a blast!
“I’m talking over here!” Billy Porter sassed to a barking dog, who immediately stopped. Billy, Stark Sands, and Annaleigh Ashford heated up the stage with Harvey Fierstein watching proudly from the sidelines. These Kinky Boots kids had tons to say about the importance of adoption, and they had bubbling chemistry together even while not performing on the Broadway stage! Props to them for keeping the audience lively and involved, even when it began to drizzle.
The Newsies dream team consisting of Corey Cott, Kara Lindsay, LaVon Fisher-Wilson, and John Dossett (who starred in Gypsy opposite Bernadette as Herbie) showed up soon after, all with bright smiles. Corey held and spoke about one of the smallest dogs at Broadway Barks that day, which rose the question of who was more precious, the dog or the man holding him? The world may never know.
Victoria Clark, Laura Osnes, and Ann Harada of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella took the microphone triumphantly. Laura, looking gorgeous as usual, was visibly touched by this cause and wanted nothing more than for the dog she was supporting to get a home. The puppy Ann spoke about sported a miniature sun hat and was quite the sight! Ann brought her comedic flair and as always, this cast provided lots of applause!
And, of course, Andrew Rannells‘ return to New York was a great one! He was one of the evening’s final presenters, making many hilarious (possibly unintentional) remarks, including one after spotting very few cat people in the crowd: “And [this dog] also gets along with cats! So…yep. No.” His natural charisma and stage presence made him one of the highlights of Broadway Barks, and everyone was hoping for him to return next year as well!
By 6:30, Bebe Neuwirth was wrapping up this successful day in a big red ribbon, graciously speaking on stage about the importance of pet adoption and how much time Bernadette has put into Broadway Barks. She seemed genuinely humble and spoke to many fans right before she got on stage.
With raffle winners announced by Bernadette and Harvey, the 15th annual Broadway Barks day of fun and awareness was concluded. All were thanked for coming to support the cause and withstand the heat, and overall the fans seemed delighted to be there all day long. Not one person left Shubert Alley disappointed, and many dogs left with a new home to look forward to.
Congratulations to Bernadette Peters and all who were involved with Broadway Barks!