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Spirits of Broadway and theater lovers feeling uplifted following Curtain Up! festival

Performers at the Jimmy Awards Concert held during the Curtain Up! Festival in Times Square on Sept. 17, 2021.
Photo by Nyckole Maree

Broadway is back and better than ever following the three-day Curtain Up! festival, which showcased show tunes in the heart of Times Square stretching between 45th and 48th Streets between Sept. 17-19 to celebrate Broadway and its historic reopening. 

Playbill partnership with The Broadway League, the Times Square Alliance, and much more sponsorship companies in bringing this celebration to life. The Friday festival opener had theatergoers grinning from ear to ear with a day full of festivities. 

The Playbill Piano Bar event was a musical sing-along with a variety of performers playing at a bright yellow piano, covered with Playbills, known as the Sing For Hope Piano.

Joe Iconis, a composer for the Broadway show, “Be More Chill,” sang some fan-favorite show tunes like “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” from the musical, Funny Girl. Later on during the day, people were “Defying Gravity” as they were singing along to songs from the musical, “Wicked” with pianist Paul Loesel. 

This event brought all walks of life to come together to share their love of Broadway in finding a human connection that has been long overdue since the start of the pandemic.

“I feel during the pandemic everyone was yearning for that connection when broadway got shut down,” said Abraham Hussein, a Broadway goer who flew from Dallas to see five Broadway shows on opening week. “I don’t think anyone realize the gravity that was going to be and as time went on it got harder and harder, but now it is open we are so excited that is back.”

The cast of Netflix’s “Dear White People” take part in a discussion during the Curtain Up! Festival.Photo by Nyckole Maree

Besides hearing and singing along to show tunes, audience members got to hear a q&a section with the Netflix cast of Dear White People. Marque Richardson, Logan Browning, Deron Horton, and Bryan Terrell Clark discussed the crossover of theatre to television/film and the remarkable steps towards diversifying the arts for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) members of the community. This was an informative event that resonated with audience members in bringing up the conversation about misrepresentation in the media. 

“They made a lot of good points about diversity behind the scenes and us as colored people not being just tap dancing performers but people who actually have seats at the table,” said Matthew Self, an audience member. “When it comes to decision making, we can use our voices to tell our own stories, then it will be more about authenticity than so a caricature of people think we are.”

The showstopper event of the night was The Jimmy Awards Reunion Concert, hosted by Broadway’s Jelani Alladin.

This event brought together alumni of the famed Jimmy Awards and the National High School Musical Theatre Awards program. They each had a moment in the spotlight with solo numbers from classic and contemporary Broadway shows. Then joined together for a grand finale in singing “Morning Glow” from the musical Pippin.

McKenzie Kurtz, who played Anna on the Broadway adaptation of Frozen, gave the audience an amazing performance of her version of Fanny Brice as she sang, “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” The concert also featured Elena Holder and Bryson Battle who are the two top winners from the virtual 2021 Jimmy Awards making their New York Performance debuts. 

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