by Marilyn Lester
In the history of New York theater, only two organizations predate the Broadway Association: The Lambs Club, founded in 1874; and the Players, formed in 1888. Actors Equity (1913) and the Broadway League (1930) are Johnny-come-latelies—and so it was at this 106th annual luncheon that Master of Ceremonies Sandy Kenyon, WABC-TV entertainment reporter and movie critic for Channel 7, acknowledged the longevity of the Association, citing the famous Life magazine photo of Gloria Swanson standing on the rubble of the Roxy Theater. This was the iconic photo that inspired Steven Sondheim’s Follies and Kenyon aptly referred to the musical with the quote, “we’re still here.”
That sentiment of longevity was taken up in remarks by Association Chairman Emeritus Dennis D. Swanson and Chairman and President Cristyne L. Nicholas in their opening remarks. The not-for-profit Broadway Association is dedicated to the cultural and economic betterment of midtown west, which comprises the Broadway theater district. Chief among the Association’ advocacy is the concern over the costumed characters in the Times Square area, a problem the Association is working on with other City entities. The goal is to find the optimal solution to ensure tourist safety and comfort.
The theme of Broadway’s longevity and success was taken up also by Dave Davis, President and General Manager of WABC-TV, who received the Association’s Excellence in Leadership Award. Davis declared that not only is the Broadway Association still here but Broadway theater is too—more alive than ever. He reported on figures indicating that this Broadway season is the biggest yet, with revenues in the billions and paid admissions at an all-time high. Davis strongly declared Channel 7’s ongoing and committed support of New York theater as a cultural and economic anchor of the City. He also reported in full-disclosure mode, that as a subsidiary of the Disney Corporation, he was privy to the fact that Disney’s Frozen indeed will be headed to Broadway next year.
A special performance was given by the charming Tony winner and Emmy nominee, Jane Krakowski, currently performing in Roundabout Theatre Company’s She Loves Me. Krakowski sang “In the Library” from that show, with all the verve and appeal that has garnered her so many achievement awards. Krakowski was followed by her “boss,” Todd Haimes, the Artistic Director of the Roundabout Theatre Company, who received the Association’s Visionary Leadership Award. In his endearing and earnest acceptance speech, Haimes revealed that when he first took on the leadership of the Roundabout in 1983, as Executive Director, the then off-Broadway company was in Chapter 11. The ship was sinking and the future looked bleak. But Haimes was undaunted. In the decade that followed he not only pulled the Roundabout back from the brink but launched it on a trajectory of enormous and consistent growth. Today the Roundabout Theatre Company is one of the leading cultural institutions in New York City, with dominion over three Broadway theaters and the Off-Broadway Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. It’s been a wild ride, and Haimes says with charm, “Oh, the stories I could tell you!” But what he did disclose is that although they keep it low-key, the Schubert Organization is the biggest supporter of non-profit theater in the U.S. Finally, Haimes tipped his hat to the actors and performers who doggedly and faithfully do the work, despite personal tragedy, bad reviews and other stumbling blocks that might be thrown their way. They get out there and do the work. “That’s what keeps me going,” he said. His appreciation of that dedication was heartfelt. Our appreciation of Haimes and his work is more than likewise.