Since 1978, West Bank Cafe has been one of the few authentic epcicenters of New York City’s theatre community, and due to the pandemic, it is on the verge of permanently closing. With Broadway dark, tourism down, indoor dining closed, and no relief plan in sight, 2020 has created a plethora of financial problems for the beloved theater district institution. We don’t want that to happen. Enter the theatre community. It’s called community for a reason.
During a chance encounter while picking up take-out, producers Tom and Michael D’Angora met actor Tim Guinee, and heard from their friend, West Bank owner Steve Olsen that he was planning on closing the historic establishment for good. The pandemic had taken too much of a toll on the business.
The three, who had just met seconds earlier, put on their thinking caps and realized that there was an opportunity for an It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, moment for the iconic restaurant. With two weeks to go, they settled on producing a Christmas Day “Virtual Telethon” featuring the stars and talent who hold West Bank Cafe/Laurie Beechman Theater near-and-dear to their hearts.
Writer, and West Bank loyalist, Joe Iconis hopped on board as a producer and the team is setting out to raise enough funds to pay off the 2020 debt, incurred solely from the pandemic, and pay West Bank’s rent for 2021 to give them time to get back on their feet. With a GoFundMe in place and slew of talent lining up to provide holiday content for the event, everyone is hoping to produce a miracle on 42nd St.
A select list of talent scheduled to participate* include: Betty Buckley, Debra Messing, Martha Plimpton, Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), Joe Iconis (composer Be More Chill), Iain Armitage (“Young Sheldon”), Lewis Black (Comedy Central, HBO’s “Black on Broadway”), Kevin Chamberlain (Seussical, The Prom), Megan Hilty (“Smash,” Wicked), Kerry Butler (Hairspray, Beetlejuice), Telly Leung (Aladdin), Ryann Redmond (Frozen), Leslie Kritzer (Beetlejuice, Robber Bridegroom), Nick Adams (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Jacki Cox (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”), Alison Fraser (Secret Garden, Gypsy), Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young (Hair, “American Idol”), Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”), BenDeLeCreme (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”), Isaac Mizrahi (fashion designer), Perez Hilton (Celebrity Blogger, NEWSical), David Eigenberg (“Sex and the City”), Dylan Baker (Happiness, Road to Perdition), Warren Leight (Tony winning playwright, Side Man), and many more stars from stage and screen to be announced in the following days.
The West Bank Café is a favorite hotspot for a preshow meal, a post show drink, a place to catch the hottest stars and up-and-coming talent in the downstairs “Laurie Beechman Theater”, and a place where many New York memories have been made. It is the spot where Joan Rivers performed her final show. It’s the spot where Sunday In The Park With George rehearsed. It is the spot where the hottest stars from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” perform. It’s the spot where rising talent make their NY debut at Broadway Sessions. It is the spot where playwrights gather, producers mingle, stars grab a cocktail, and everyone is treated like family by proprietor Steve Olsen.
The Save West Bank Cafe Virtual Telethon will stream free of charge beginning at 12pm EST on Christmas Day (December 25) at www.SaveWestBankCafe.com. The event will feature a day’s worth of holiday music, stories, greetings, and West Bank memories from an ever growing roster of talent. Donations to Save West Bank Café can be made now or during the telethon on the show’s website. GOFUNDME
nydailynews.com: Broadway stars rally to save NYC’s West Bank Cafe
patch.com: West Bank Cafe, Storied Hell’s Kitchen Venue, Tries To Survive
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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