By Frank and Margie Barron
With the noble goal of helping people save their precious memories, a musical revue has been produced annually. “A Night at Sardi’s” is a benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association, and for 21 years the most talented stars have participated to put on an unforgettable show. This year was no exception, with a lineup of hot TV stars doing musical numbers that reflected the “Best of Broadway” theme.
Honors are also given out to special people who support the cause. The event’s founder Laurie Burrows Grad (and co-chair with her husband Peter Grad) said, “I’m thrilled that Brian Grazer is receiving the Abe Burrows Entertainment Award,” named after her dad, a Broadway great. Actress and advocate Jill Gascoine, who is battling the disease, accepted the Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award.
When his “best friend for life,” Ron Howard presented Grazer his award, Brian shared memories of his mother Arlene “who I lost to Alzheimer’s. I remember as a boy my mother validated me for asking questions, which became the matrix of my life. It led me to the ‘what if’ premise of exploring ideas. What if I met a mermaid? That idea became Splash, and it was because my mother got me to understand the value of curiosity.”
On the red carpet before the show at the Beverly Hilton, it was a delight to talk to the performers who shared some of their special memories. Steven Weber said, “The day I met my wife, the moment I first saw her, is a memory I hope I never lose.” Weber performed Gypsy’s “Gotta Have A Gimmick” stripper number with Sharon Lawrence and Linda Hart. It was a show-stopper. Sharon said she’ll always cherish the memory of performing in church was when she was about nine, “and afterwards my dad said ‘You’ve got it!’ So I knew then I wanted to be a performer.” Linda said doing four-part harmonies with her famous gospel-singing family are among her fondest memories.
Another show-stopper was the awesomely talented Barrett Foa (NCIS:LA), a Broadway veteran who belted out “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon. A shining light from his childhood memory is “a big plastic nightlight in the shape of a goose. It makes me smile when I think of it, and reminds me of my mom and dad saying ‘good night’ to me.”
Belting out Broadway tunes is also a passion for Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), who launched the show with “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray. He has directed many musical productions for his Reprise Theatre Company, but the most memorable was at the helm for Sunday in the Park with George, “and the set morphed into the famous painting. It was thrilling to see.”
Norm Lewis (Scandal) sang “On the Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime, duet with Nita Whitaker. His favorite childhood memory was “running after the ice cream truck on a hot summer’s night.” Leslie Odom Jr. (Smash) got everyone singing along during his Jersey Boys medley.
It was appropriate that Rob Morrow (Numb3rs) sang “Family” from Dreamgirls, because he noted, “The day my daughter was born was the greatest day of my life.” Zachary Levi (Chuck) sang “The Lady is a Tramp” from Pal Joey, with a strong Sinatra-style voice, and Emmy Rossum (Shameless) was the ideal choice to sing 42nd Street’s “Keep Young and Beautiful.” Christine Ebersole starred on Broadway in 42nd Street and did the titled number. Beth Behrs (2 Broke Girls) proved she had a rich voice with “Frank Mills” from Hair. Colin Donnell (Arrow) knocked it out of the park with “I Get A Kick Out of You” from Anything Goes.
To wrap up the night, the cast of The Big Bang Theory did an outrageous costumed performance of “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Full of guts and glory Johnny Galecki started off the number. Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik, tap dancing Melissa Rauch, and Jim Parsons (hysterical in drag) joined in, with the entire audience of Alzheimer’s Association supporters going wild with “Let’s do the Time Warp again.”
Jason Bateman was the emcee, Sheryl Kaller directed, and Susan Dietz produced the “Night at Sardi’s” event. The name comes from the NYC hangout for Broadway denizens waiting for reviews. Without a doubt, the night was a smash, and full of great memories.