by Linda Amiel Burns
The Broadway Beacon Awards are presented yearly to individuals in the theater community who have been advocates for increasing audiences for live theatre and understand the importance of the arts in the lives of NYC students. The first Broadway Beacon Award was given in 1995 to the late Carol Channing. This year, the recipients at a gala dinner at The Essex House on April 8th, 2019, were Tony Award-winning Broadway icon Chita Rivera, NBC News/The Today Show’s Al Roker, Tony-winning Broadway scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, (Be More Chill, Come From Away, Sunday in the Park With George), and Patricia White (President, Theatrical Wardrobe Local 764 IATSE).
The evening, hosted by the charming FOX5 entertainment reporter Baruch Shemtov, began with a special performance by students from IS 278 in Marine Park, Brooklyn who were dressed in glittery Fosse-like attire and bowler hats to sing and dance a medley of “All That Jazz” and “Put On a Happy Face” with special choreography. Christiani Pitts & Eric William Morris, stars of the Broadway show King Kong, performed songs from that show and talked about how excited the kids were to see it and then took a tour back stage to see how the magic is done.
Executive Director, Michael Presser gave a welcome speech and mentioned that this was their 37th year as he established Inside Broadway in 1982 in cooperation with The Shubert Organization. Today they reach over 80,000 New York City students in over 100 public schools each year with programs that include an annual Equity musical production that tours schools as well as a wide range of educational programs that allow participants to interact with professionals in the field and experience theater hands-on in the classroom.
Chita Rivera was given the first-ever “Lifetime Achievement Award” and this was presented to her by her dear friends celebrated musician Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and his wife dancer, Maureen Van Zandt. Chita made a gracious acceptance speech emphasizing the importance of arts education for young people and how it affects their future.
Tony Award Winning costumer designer William Ivey Long presented the award to talented scenic designer Beowulf Boritt who is young but called “an old soul.” They worked together on several projects including The Prince of Broadway where Beowulf had to channel over 30 different shows. William called him “the greatest artist working in the theater today” and Beowulf modestly accepted and seemed genuinely moved by this tribute from a theatrical legend who himself is a creative design genius.
ABC reporter Deborah Roberts presented her husband Al Roker (13 Emmy Awards) with well deserved award saying that although he has done nearly every job in TV and show business, his recent seven week stint on Broadway in Waitress was a highlight of his life and that he is a true Renaissance man. When Al gratefully received the award, he said that 24 years ago this month, he and Deborah had their wedding reception in the same room.
Patricia White (President, Theatrical Wardrobe Local 764 IATSE) was given the award by Honorary Chair James J. Claffey, Jr. who talked about her great accomplishments. Patricia mentioned her love affair with the theater since childhood and also thanked her husband’s theatrical lighting designer Rick Martin for his love and support.
Congratulations to all the honorees and everyone involved who makes this important Arts Education organization possible for nearly four decades. The wonderful work they do creates magic for young audiences and affects the lives and future of of thousands of children.
If you would like more information on Inside Broadway, please visit www.InsideBroadway.org. or phone 212 245-0710.
Video/Edits: Shoshana Medney
Photos: Maryann Lopinto