Since 1978, West Bank Cafe has been one of the epicenters 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.
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 Café and their downstairs Laurie Beechman Theater near-and-dear to their hearts.
Writer, and West Bank loyalist, Joe Iconis hopped on board as a co-producer and the team is setting out to raise enough funds to pay off the 2020 debt, incurred solely from the pandemic, and to help pay West Bank’s expenses 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. As of Christmas Eve, $208,051 of the $250,000 goal has been raised.
The nine hour telethon will feature appearances by: André De Shields, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Pete Townshend, Debra Messing, Chita Rivera, Betty Buckley, Alan Cumming, Bobby Cannavale, Tony Shalhoub, Kevin Chamberlin, Alice Ripley, Iain Armitage, Isaac Mizrahi, Martha Plimpton, Melissa Rivers, Andrea McArdle, Lewis Black, Dylan Baker, Becky Gelke, Randy Rainbow, Cheri Oteri, Laura Benanti, John Gallagher Jr., Cady Hoffman, David Eigenberg, Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young, Kerry Butler, Lois Smith, Norm Lewis, Anna Chlumsky, Telly Leung, Ryann Redmond, George Salazar, Joe Iconis, Lauren Marcus, Tim Guinee, Lauren Patten, Karl Heringer, David Auburn, Harris Yulin, Warren Leight, Laura Bell Bundy, Annie Golden, Megan Hilty, Brian Gallagher, Jakie Cox, Jinx Monsoon, Brooke Adams, Judy Kuhn, Perez Hilton, Giancarlo Esposito, Megan Boone, Zak Orth, Patrick Breen, Linus Roache, Brad Oscar, Alison Arngrim, Alison Fraser, Mary Testa, Chip Zien, Debbie Gravitte, Kelli Barrett, Jarrod Spector, Justin Sargent, Tony Sheldon, Anson Mount, Gil Bellows, Rya Khlidstedt, Karen Mason, Christine Pedi, Lauren Molina, Nick Adams, Morgan Fairchild, Ilene Kristen, Kristen Alderson, Robert Newman, Ann Harada, Lori Singer, Geraldine Hughes, Michael West, Christina Bianco, Jason Tam, Jeff Harnar, Lee Wilkof, Julie Halston, Alysha Umphress, Molly Hager, Maya Days, Susie Mosher, Evan Handler, Michael O’Keefe, Eric William Morris, Alyse Alan Louis, Michael Rayner, Michael Gaston, Michael Longoria, John Hilner, Michelle Dowdy, Jordan Wolfe, Rick Crom, Leon Addison Brown, Terry Kinney, Karen Ziemba, Lily Houghton, Lee Rodriguez, Jennifer Ferrin, Jeff Perry, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Laura Woyasz, Marissa Mulder, Kristy Cates and Gracie, Marty Thomas, Amra Faye Wright, Jennifer Ashley Tepper, Marissa Rosen, Jeanine Tesori, Aaron Kaburick, Liz Lark Brown, Karen MackThose Girls, Amy Hillner Larsen, Amy Toporek, Eric Michael Gillett, Jason Graae, Stephanie Wilberding, Chelah Horsdal, David Friedman, Marie Gabrielle, Tedi Marsh, Beckham Peterson, Carly Sakolove, Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch, Klea Blackhurst, Mark Nadler, KT Sullivan, Gabrielle Stravelli, Leslie Carrara, Rudolph Lardpop, Lolly Lardpop, Holly Ann Butler, L Kevin Steven Taylor, Jon Satrom, Sean Bernardi, Neil Martin West, Tracy Stark, Bill Zeffiro, Kevin Michael Murphy, Jennifer Barnhart, Garry Dial, Terre Roche, Jordan Stanley, Amanda Huxtable, Latrice Royale, David Auburn, Jimmy Larkin, Bradley Jones, Jennifer Mudge, Dina O’Brien, La Voix, Sherry Vine, Tammie Brown, Paige Turner, Jackie Sanders, Michael Garin and Mardie Millit, Lorenzo Pisoni, Coco Taylor, Jackie Beat, Neil Pepe, Chelsea Piers, Michael Hull, Nicky Paraiso, Kate Pazakis, Natalie Douglas, Michael Kirk Lane, Ben Cameron, Dylan Hartwell, Gregory Sullivan, Scott Coulter, Billy Recce, Emily McNamara, Scott Richard Foster, Taylor Crousore, Tulis McCall, Gabrielle Lee, Lorinda Lisitza, Shakina Nayfack, Badia Farha, Ray Leslee, Billy The Mime, Brandon Cutrell, Lennie Watts, Amy Wolk, Maggie McDowell and Thomas, Tom D’Angora, Michael D’Angora, Janet Momjian, Steve Olsen, Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, District Leader Marisa Redanty, a special message from Al Pacino, and Michael L. Walters as Santa Claus *.
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 25th) 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
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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