Melody Monday: ‘Broadway Backwards’ brings a new twist to classics

Alan Cumming in Broadway Backwards 6.

Alan Cumming in Broadway Backwards 6.

Musical theatre is a world of tradition, and the annual Broadway Backwards is one of its better ones. This year marked its eighth anniversary. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS produces the event to support Broadway Cares and the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

The concert broke its own fundraising record by pulling in $347,060 on March 18 at the Palace Theatre.

What’s special about Broadway Backwards is that it features Broadway’s biggest stars performing musical theatre hits, but with a twist – men sing the vocal parts traditionally performed by women and women singing the parts traditionally performed by men. This brings a whole new dimension to iconic songs and offers solidarity and support to the LGBT community.

The concert is particularly relevant this spring with the Supreme Court’s recent consideration of equal marriage rights. Broadway has long been a supporter of marriage equality but now the whole country has an eye toward the LGBT movement – and Broadway Backwards is a great way to draw in more support.

The results that come from famous Broadway stories being told from a different angle are often surprising and sometimes very emotional. A pronoun makes a big impact, and when those pronouns are left unchanged while someone of a different gender sings the words, the very fabric of a song’s meaning can be shifted. The joy and positive energy that surrounds Broadway Backwards offers a glimmer of a future in which equality isn’t just a distant dream.

Florence Henderson in Broadway Backwards 7.

Florence Henderson in Broadway Backwards 7.

The Broadway community is an incredibly tight-knit and philanthropic group and events like Broadway Backwards make that heart-warmingly evident. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is behind several other fantastic annual charity performances like Gypsy of the YearEaster Bonnet and Broadway Backwards.

Let’s reflect on just a few of the many gems have been part of the concert in the past (and perhaps offer you a little YouTube-searching inspiration to fight off any Monday blues):

Sierra Boggess sang the Little Mermaid classic “Kiss The Girl” alongside Jessica Lee Goldyn in Broadway Backwards 3 in 2008.

Andrew Rannells gave a stunning rendition of “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from Funny Girl in 2012 at Broadway Backwards 7.

The charming Nick Adams sang “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from Sweet Charity at Broadway Backwards 5 in 2010.

Lea Salonga sang “Out There,” a much-loved number from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, at Broadway Backwards 5 in 2010.

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka brought the charged Rent classic “Take Me Or Leave Me” to the stage (can you imagine being present to see those two sing together?) at Broadway Backwards 3 back in 2008.

“Gee, Officer Krupke” of West Side Story was performed by Whoopi Goldberg at Broadway Backwards 4 in 2009.

“Getting Married Today,” the famed Sondheim song from Company was brought to life by Michael Urie at Broadway Backwards 4 in 2009.

The adorable and impassioned “I Want It All” from Baby was made even more adorable by Jose Llana, Brooks Ashmanskas and Gavin Creel at Broadway Backwards 3 in 2008.

Alan Cumming performed “Don’t Tell Mama” from Cabaret at Broadway Backwards 6 in 2011.

“I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles was the stirring finale to Broadway Backwards 7 in 2012. It was lead by Shawna Hamic who brought down the house.

Do you have a favorite Broadway Backwards performance? Let me know in comments!

About Claire H.

Writer, performer, picture-taker, New Yorker. Find me on Twitter at @Claire_Hannum.

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