By Andrew Poretz …
Nothing brings people together better than a worthy cause. The stars came out for Broadway Sings for She Angels for a sold-out, one-night-only extravaganza The three-year-old She Angels Foundation was founded by author Cat Curry-Williams and Catherine Gray, the organization gives grants to female-founded non-profit organizations that provide mentorship, funding, and resources to a diverse portfolio of women and girls’ causes. Ms. Curr-Williams and her husband, the television writer and producer Scott Williams, also founded Shane’s Inspiration.
Some of the finest talents donated their most precious resource, time, including creator and former performing artist Will Nunziata, and musical director and accompanist Ron Abel. Mr. Nunziata co-produced the event with Broadway and concert star Joan Ryan, who is a founding member of She Angels, and sits on their Advisory Board.
Journalist and theater critic Roma Torre was the host for the event. She brought up Catherine Curry-Williams to present She Angels’ latest grant recipient, Statement Junky, the 25th such grant in only three years of existence.
First up was Broadway/musical theater star and philanthropist Nita Whitaker. The statuesque star has a regal bearing, in a long black dress. She performed an uplifting song called “Yes.”
Musical theater star Marissa Rosen slayed with Sara Bareilles’ “Brave,” which could be an anthem for She Angels. With her gorgeous, powerful voice, she led the audience in singing the refrain, “I wanna see you be brave.”
Mexican actor and singer Mauricio Martinez (a favorite of this writer) came out wearing an all-black ensemble with white sneakers. His beautiful performance of “Memory” (from Cats) in Spanish was powerful. “Barbra who?”, said Julie Halston, after her introduction.
Readers may recognize Ms. Halston Sex in the City, where she played “Broadway Legend Bitsy Von Muffling.” She is also one of the most hysterically funny performers you’ll ever see. A cross between a storyteller and a comedian, her story of seeing her mother doing yoga was hilarious. She impersonated her mother’s directions for calming down from a panic attack: “Bend over. Squeeze your anus. Think love. Unblock.” She brought the house down with this routine. When Roma Torre returned to the mic, she bent over, in a funny callback.
Musical theater, television and cabaret star Linda Purl may be best known for her recurring characters on Happy Days and Matlock. She is a fine singer and interpreter of jazz standards. Wearing a sleeveless, sparkling top over a white skirt, the star sang a peppy “I Feel a Song Coming On” (Dorothy Fields, George Oppenheimer and Jimmy McHugh).
“What I’m going to do tonight is like being shot out of a cannon is to singing,” said Paul Kreppel. This actor and Tony Award-winning director played “Jackie’s dad” on That 70s Show. He performed a riotous “Helium” (John Forster), a comedic song about a man with a serious helium addiction. Kreppel has an uncanny ability to make his voice sound like he was taking hits from a helium-filled balloon. He was so convincing that I really believed he was inhaling helium, despite his explicit description of his action as he blew up the balloon with mouth at the onset. Actor Luke Darnell joined Kreppel on guitar.
Co-producer Joan Ryan, wearing a lovely black outfit, sang “On a Clear Day.” She has a beautiful voice (she’s known for an impressive four-octave range), and knocked ‘em dead.
Mauricio Martinez returned for a magnificent “Simply the Best” (Bonnie Tyler, but most associated with Tina Turner). Mauricio touchingly thanked “every single woman in my life. I would not be the man I am without them.”
Linda Purl took another turn with a jazzy “I Have Dreamed” (Rodgers and Hart, from The King and I).
Improvisational genius Susie Mosher, whose weekly variety show “The Lineup with Susie Mosher” has taken New York by storm, reprised her brilliant “Cry Me a River” piece she performed several years ago at The Cabaret Convention, telling the story of her first love, who dumped her but then wanted her back. She takes what starts out as the gentle torch song of a jilted lover to Sam Kinison-esque heights of crazy.
Nita Whitaker returned for the powerful “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha. She flaunted her incredible range by singing the back half of the song an octave higher than the first, and hitting an even-higher “impossible note” flawlessly, in chest voice! Brava!!!!
Joan Ryan “took us to church” with a spiritual-tinged rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel to cap off a very special night.
We followed up with Joan Ryan the next day to learn more about She Angels Foundation and her impetus for helping create it. She had been involved for many years with Shane’s Inspiration. Catherine Curry-Williams, one of her best friends, told her that “only two percent of any kind of charitable contribution in the United States goes to women and girls.” Joan jumped right on board. “We find where the need is, and do their best to fill it,” adding, “This was more about raising awareness than money. We woke up to so many donations, and we didn’t even ask for donations.” All board members are unpaid, so “every single penny that comes in to She Angels goes to the grants.” The organization “is a membership-driven organization.”
Broadway Sings for She Angels took place at The Green Room 42, at the YOTEL Hotel, 570 Tenth Avenue between 42nd and 41st Street (thegreenroom42.venuetix.com)
Photos: Magda Katz