On Saturday, March 4th, the performers of Twin City Squared will take to the stage for a good cause with Broadway Backwards. Since 2006 Broadway Backwards has celebrated Broadway and its diverse community by fundraising for Broadway Cares/Equity Fight Aids. BC/EFA is a not-for-profit organization created as the theatre community’s response to the AIDS/HIV crisis. Every year Broadway Backwards has raised money for BC/EFA by presenting unique performances of Broadway classics for theatre goers. To date Broadway Backwards has raised over $2.9 million for BC/EFA (based on Broadway Backwards’ historical figures).
What makes the performances unique? The gender roles of the characters are switched. By switching the gender of the role, a whole new interpretation and performance can be presented for audiences. Also, the performers have a chance of playing roles that they wouldn’t normally get to perform. For example last year’s Broadway Backwards in New York City featured Jay Armstrong Johnson performing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1949). In changing the gender of the character Lorelei Lee (and playing with the visuals set by the performances of Marilyn Monroe in the film of the same name (1953) and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge (2001)), Johnson and Broadway Backwards invites an LGBTQ and gender-friendly perspective for interpretation and discussion.
Often the vocal arrangements are rearranged to accommodate the performer’s (or performers’) vocal range(s). Mezzo-soprano Karen Mason, for instance, performed an arrangement of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from My Fair Lady (1956), a song written in C Major and notably performed by Rex Harrison (who "talked on pitch" rather than sang). Brian Lasser arranged the song for Mason before he passed away from AIDS in 1992 so the performance was a tribute to another Broadway community member. As you can see, Broadway Backwards brings more to the stage than simply the same old showtunes.
Smile Politely: Can you give us an idea of which songs and/or musicals will be highlighted by the performers?
Michael Galloway: The songs themselves are on lock-down until the show. We want the audience to be surprised with the selections. They will come from some classic Broadway shows as well as some newer ones.
SP: Is there a stellar item (or two) in the silent auction that people should know about? In poking around your Facebook page, I see there are a few posters autographed by the Broadway casts of Cinderella, Pippin, and Les Miserables.
Galloway: We have some other sweet things that are coming from Broadway and I think one of the cooler ones will be an autographed cast poster of The Lion King! Items are coming in as we write this [response] so I would keep an eye on our Facebook page.
SP: Is this the first time that Twin City Squared has participated and/or supported Broadway Backwards? I see that Broadway Backwards originated on Broadway and the non-for-profit organization has a great history of fundraising and charity. Was Twin City inspired by the organization to participate or is Broadway Backwards branching out from Broadway to here?
Galloway: No, since we have started Twin City, we have been a big supporter of Broadway Cares. We requested and received permission to use the name for our event from the New York office. Since I have been involved with theatre ([for] many years, LOL) I have had a special place for Broadway Cares. At every theatre I have worked we have donated and supported them. The real great thing is they are very supportive of us and have helped with questions, song selections and such.
Also, Galloway was gracious enough to put me in contact with two of the performers for this upcoming show: Sara Coffey, Alicia Schneider, Ethan Smith, and Kevin Paul Wickart.
SP: Without giving the song's title away, what do you like the most about the song that you are performing for Broadway Backwards?
Sara Coffey: I like the fun and comedic side to my songs, they allow me to let loose and show a side of myself that really only comes out when I perform on stage!
Alicia Schneider: I'm most excited about breaking out my rapping skills and getting to perform parts of songs that were written for the opposite gender.
Ethan Smith: I really enjoy the energy that I am able to bring to music that I will be performing.
Kevin Paul Wickart: [I like] having the opportunity to apply a new spin to an old Broadway standard.
SP: What have you found to be the most challenging (or rewarding) about this experience?
Coffey: I have found that I work best in a structured environment, so it has been a learning experience and challenge for me to work so independently on these performances. I am very excited for this show and I think when it is all over I will then sit back and ask in the praise. That will be my reward, if people enjoy the experience!
Schneider: The most rewarding part of this experience has been getting to watch everyone step out of their comfort zones and incorporate their unique personalities into each role.
Smith: I really find the most rewarding about this entire experience is the ability to hone my craft by singing songs of the other gender and still performing them so they are relatable to me and an audience.
Broadway Backwards is a one-evening engagement at the SoDo Theatre (I4C's performance space) this Saturday, March 4th, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the box office after 7 p.m. that night. The event benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Sarah Keim is a contributing writer for Smile Politely’s Arts section. She's a bit of recluse on social media, but you might bump into her out in the wilds of C-U. Frequent sightings occur at Harvest Market, the Art Theatre, coffee shops, and other fun places.