The theater community reunited on March 12, 2021 in Times Square exactly one year to the day since Broadway shut-down for “We Will Be Back,” a special live pop-up experience and commemoration of Broadway’s “lost year.”
Broadway stars André De Shields, BD Wong, Chita Rivera, Matthew Broderick, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Joel Grey, Derrick Baskin, Charl Brown, Kelvin Moon Loh, Joél Pérez, Peppermint, Lillias White, Nikki M. James, Solea Pfeiffer, Tamara Tunie, Sahr Ngaujah, Doug Wright, Jerry Mitchell, Robyn Hurder, Karla Garcia, Orville Mendoza, Jackie Cox, Michael McElroy and the Broadway Inspirational Voices and more were on hand for the joyful and inspiring event featuring song, dance, costumes, musicians and more in Times Square, the heart of New York City.
The event aimed to provide a sense of hope as the industry and city move forward from the challenges brought on by the past year, by shining a spotlight on the arts workers who suffered during the theatre’s darkest hours as well as celebrating the sense of community and diversity within the arts environment that mirrors that of New York City itself.
While the arts community has many months ahead before uniting in theatres once again, “We Will Be Back” provided the opportunity to safely and ceremoniously come together on Broadway, live and in-person, for a special one-time-only performance representing a myriad of arts and culture workers, unions, and individuals that comprise the Broadway community.
The event is sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Kaleidoscope Entertainment, NYCNext, and the Times Square Alliance, executive produced by Blake Ross and directed and produced by Holly-Anne Devlin of Kaleidoscope, with musical direction by Jacob Yates and choreography by Kellen Stancil.
Below is my photo and video coverage of the performances and speeches by Producer and Director Holly-Anne Devlin, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Executive Director Tom Viola, Tamara Tunie, BD Wong, Nikkole Salter, Joel Grey, Chita Rivera and André De Shields.
“On Broadway” (Presented with support of author George Benson) is performed by Derrick Baskin, Charl Brown, Kelvin Moon Loh, and Joél Pérez and is arranged by Jacob Yates. Watch below:
“Home” (From “The Wiz” Presented with support of Michael Smalls, son of author Charlie Smalls) is performed by Lilias White, Nikki M. James, Peppermint, and Solea Pfeiffer and is arranged by Jacob Yates. Watch below:
Speeches by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Executive Director Tom Viola and Tamara Tunie
“We Will Be Back” (Music, Lyrics and Musical Direction by Allen René Louis): Featuring Broadway Inspirational Voices: Danielle Chambers, Casey Erin Clark, Allyson Kaye Daniel, Laura Dean, Angela DeCicco, Chris Dilley, Lucia Giannetta, Angela Grovey, Kimberly JaJuan, Zonya Love, Jason McCollum, John Eric Parker, Kris Roberts, Desiree Rodriguez, Ben Roseberry, Will Stone, Anne Fraser Thomas, Danielle K. Thomas, Virginia A Woodruff, and Christopher Zelno. Watch below:
Speeches by BD Wong, Nikkole Salter, Joel Grey, Chita Rivera, André De Shields
BD Wong discussed advocacy organizations Be An Arts Hero and the Costume Industry Coalition. Nikkole Salter, representing The Dramatists Guild of America, shared a portion of her letter for arts relief to President Biden and Vice President Harris that Arts workers are essential to America. Watch below:
Costumes from Ain’t Too Proud, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Six, Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked displayed in and around the performers were built by members of the Costume Industry Coalition, which represents 55 small businesses that make, supply and care for Broadway costumes.
“Magic to Do” (Written by Stephen Schwartz and performed with his support) is arranged by Tom Kitt and performed by André De Shields, Brandon Nase, Heath Saunders, Kathryn Gallagher, Ryann Redmond, Charl Brown, Bre Jackson, Michael Fatica, Anna Uzele, Olivia Valli, Gerry McIntyre, Kris Coleman, Orville Mendoza, and featuring Jackie Cox, with supporting vocals by Broadway Inspirational Voices.
Dancers led by choreographer Kellen Stancil feature Julius Anthony Rubio, Keely Bierne, Karla Garcia, Tyler Eisenreich, Lloyd Boyd, Ryan Worsing, Rosie Fiedelman, Samantha Farrow, Michael Graceffa, and Whitney Cooper.
Featured musicians led by Jacob Yates included Aurelien Budyne and Justin Vance. And background vocalists feature Cameron Hill, Mia Gerachis, Melissa Rose Hirsch, Shaunice Alexander and Kim Blank, Ben Toomer, Josh Tolle, John Batt, Anthony Murphy and Julian Decker.
As the pop-up performance ended, André De Shields, Lillias White & Sahr Ngaujah sang ”New York, New York” at WE WILL BE BACK in Times Square.
“We Will Be Back” includes contributions from the variety of institutions and organizations that make Broadway what it is, including: Broadway Inspirational Voices, RRR Creative, Dominick Costa (Merchant’s Hospitality), Judi Wilfore (leading front of house, ushers, company managers and concessions efforts), Be An Arts Hero, Black Theatre United, The Costume Industry Coalition, Broadway For Racial Justice, The Dramatists Guild, Black Theatre Coalition, Local 802, The Casting Society of America, The New York Drama Critics Circle, Local 764, ATPAM, Open Jar Studios, Stars in the House, New York Drama Critics and The Marriott Marquis. Special thanks to Times Square champions, Senator Brad Hoylman, Erik Bottcher, District Leader Marisa Redanty, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The event organizers are collectively responsible for producing dozens of events all over the city during the pandemic including pop ups in the five boroughs and October’s Times Square Event featuring Bernadette Peters and 50 fellow artists singing on the red steps over TKTS in Times Square’s Father Duffy Square.
“We Will Be Back” was supported by New Tradition Media, Clear Channel Outdoor, Our Man In Havana, and Treadwell Park. Masks are designed and donated by Christian Siriano and accessories are donated by H&M.
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 filmsWolf, 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.
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