Steve Olsen’s West Bank Café has been one of the epicenters of New York City’s theatre community for 42 years. The West Bank Café is a favorite hotspot for a preshow meal, a post show drink, and a place to catch the hottest stars and up-and-coming talent in the downstairs “Laurie Beechman Theatre”. Due to the pandemic, with Broadway dark, tourism down, indoor dining closed, and no relief plan in sight, 2020 had created a plethora of financial problems for the beloved theater district institution and it was on the verge of permanently closing.
In a true It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, moment for the iconic restaurant, producers Tom and Michael D’Angora, actor Tim Guinee, and writer, and West Bank loyalist, Joe Iconis stepped in, set up a GoFundMe page and produced a 10-hour Christmas Day Virtual Telethon featuring more than 200 members of the Broadway, theater and cabaret communities who hold West Bank Café and the Laurie Beechman Theatre near-and-dear to their hearts.
Directed and edited by Michael D’Angora, the event featured a day’s worth of holiday music, stories, greetings, and the Tales From The West Bank Café film by Galen Ross.
The initial GoFundMe goal was set for $250,000, enough 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. Two hours into the telethon, more than $250,000 had been raised. The tally as of noon today was $322.156. If you would like to donate, click on this GoFundMe link.
I caught up with Proprietor Steve Olsen today who shared, “I would just like to thank everyone for their generous donations, for breathing new life into WBC, and particularly the genius of Michael D’Angora, Tom D’Angora, Joe Iconis and Tim Guinee. We are beyond ecstatic.”
Olsen also made his West Bank Café debut during the telethon with André De Shields, singing ‘Shine’, accompanied by Larry Spivack on the keys.
“Before I leave, I want to say that I’ve been living in New York for 47 years,” shared De Shields. “During that journey, I’ve spent some of my most delicious, my most insouciant, my most important times right here at the West Bank Cafe restaurant and downstairs at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. And because we don’t want this lovely piece of heaven on earth to ever go away, I’m going to hand Mr. Olsen tonight, a check for $1,000, so that you do not go away.”
The telethon also featured appearances by 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, Sean Penn, Martha Plimpton, Melissa Rivers, Brooke Adams, Nick Adams, Kristen Alderson, Alison Arngrim, David Auburn, Jennifer Barnhart, Kelli Barrett, Laura Benanti, Dylan Baker, Jackie Beat, Gil Bellows, Billy The Mime, Laura Bell Bundy, Sean Bernardi, Christina Bianco, Lewis Black, Klea Blackhurst, Megan Boone, Patrick Breen, Leon Addison Brown, Liz Lark Brown, Tammie Brown, Holly Ann Butler, Kerry Butler, Leslie Carrara, Ben Cameron, Jim Caruso, Kristy Cates and Gracie, Anna Chlumsky, Jakie Cox, Rick Crom, Taylor Crousore, Scott Coulter, Brandon Cutrell, Tom D’Angora, Michael D’Angora, Maya Days, Diana DeGarmo, Garry Dial, Natalie Douglas, Michelle Dowdy, David Eigenberg, Giancarlo Esposito, Morgan Fairchild, Badia Farha, Jennifer Ferrin, Scott Richard Foster, Alison Fraser, David Friedman, Marie Gabrielle, Brian Gallagher, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Garin, Michael Gaston, Becky Gelke, Eric Michael Gillett, Jason Graae, Debbie Gravitte, Tim Guinee, Annie Golden, Molly Hager, Julie Halston, Evan Handler, Ann Harada, Jeff Harnar, Dylan Hartwell, Karl Heringer, Perez Hilton, John Hilner, Amy Hillner Larsen, Megan Hilty, Cady Hoffman, Chelah Horsdal, Lily Houghton, Geraldine Hughes, Michael Hull, Amanda Huxtable, Joe Iconis, Aaron Kaburick, Rya Khlidstedt, Terry Kinney, Michael Kirk Lane, Ilene Kristen, Judy Kuhn, Bradley Jones, Rudolph Lardpop, Lolly Lardpop, Jimmy Larkin, La Voix, Ray Leslee, Lorinda Lisitza, Tulis McCall, Warren Leight, Telly Leung, Norm Lewis, Michael Longoria, Lauren Marcus, Karen MackThose Girls, Tedi Marsh, Karen Mason, Andrea McArdle, Tulis McCall, Maggie McDowell and Thomas, Emily McNamara, Mardie Millit, Lauren Molina, Janet Momjian, Jinx Monsoon, Eric William Morris, Susie Mosher, Anson Mount, Jennifer Mudge, Marissa Mulder, Kevin Michael Murphy, Mark Nadler, Shakina Nayfack, Robert Newman, Dina O’Brien, Michael O’Keefe, Steve Olsen, Zak Orth, Brad Oscar, Cheri Oteri, Nicky Paraiso, Lauren Patten, Kate Pazakis, Christine Pedi, Neil Pepe, Jeff Perry, Beckham Peterson, Chelsea Piers, Lorenzo Pisoni, Randy Rainbow, Michael Rayner, Billy Recce, Ryann Redmond, Linus Roache, Terre Roche, Lee Rodriguez, Marissa Rosen, Latrice Royale, Carly Sakolove, George Salazar, Jackie Sanders, Justin Sargent, Jon Satrom, Tony Sheldon, Lori Singer, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Lois Smith, Jarrod Spector, Jordan Stanley, Tracy Stark, Gabrielle Stravelli, Billy Stritch, Gregory Sullivan, KT Sullivan, Jason Tam, Coco Taylor, L Kevin Steven Taylor, Jennifer Ashley Tepper, Jeanine Tesori, Mary Testa, Marty Thomas, Amy Toporek, Paige Turner, Alysha Umphress, Sherry Vine, Michael L. Walters as Santa Claus *, Lennie Watts, Michael West, Neil Martin West, Stephanie Wilberding, Lee Wilkof, Amy Wolk, Laura Woyasz, Jordan Wolfe, Amra Faye Wright, Ace Young, Harris Yulin, Bill Zeffiro, Karen Ziemba, Chip Zien, Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, District Leader Marisa Redanty, and a special message from Al Pacino.
The live performances were filmed by Michael D’Angora, with JP Perreaux handling the live recording and mixing.
André De Shields, Chita Rivera, Bobby Cannavale, Betty Buckley, Tony Shalhoub, Laura Bell Bundy, Norm Lewis, Alison Arngrim, Jeff Perry and More Join SAVE WEST BANK CAFE VIRTUAL TELETHON on Christmas Day
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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