Inauguration Day ‘Concert for America’: Broadway stars urge NYers not to lose hope

A large assortment of well-known Broadway veterans pleaded with a sold-out New York audience and numerous others watching online to not lose hope and stay vigilant during the Trump presidency at “Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out!,” a three-hour benefit concert held at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan on Friday afternoon. It will be replayed online on Sunday night.

“Concert for America” was organized by Seth Rudetsky (a well-known actor, music director and radio host) and his husband, James Wesley, just a few weeks ago. In an interview published earlier this week, Wesley told amNewYork that the event was intended to address “a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness in this county among those who believe in social justice” following Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.

Rudetsky and Wesley intend to turn the event into a monthly series. Upcoming concerts will be held on Feb. 25 at Town Hall and March 19 in Chicago. Wayne Brady, who is currently playing Aaron Burr in the Chicago production of “Hamilton,” will take part in the later one.

Proceeds from Friday’s concert will go to nonprofit groups that protect women’s health, the environment and civil liberties including Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, Sierra Club Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center and National Immigration Law Center. Short speeches were made describing the work performed by each group.

Given Rudetsky’s deep ties to the Broadway community, it’s no surprise that he and Wesley were able to enlist a star-studded cast including Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth, Ben Vereen, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Betty Buckley, Kelli O’Hara, Rosie Perez, Billy Porter, Jessie Mueller, Judy Gold, Stephanie Mills and Caroline Rhea.

For those disheartened by the new administration, the concert functioned as feel-good entertainment (including heartwarming songs and stand-up comedy), group therapy and an inspirational pick me up. Vereen told the crowd: “We have no room for discouragement, we need your courage” and repeatedly chanted “it ain’t over yet.”

The songs celebrated the human spirit and hope. “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which was performed by Broadway performers at the Democratic National Convention, got an ensemble reprise. 

O’Hara began things on a happy note with “A Cockeyed Optimist,” the cheery credo that she sang in the 2008 Broadway revival of “South Pacific.” Rivera paid tribute to the 60th anniversary of “West Side Story” with “America” while accompanied by two male dancers.

They were followed by emotional performances from Vereen (“What a Wonderful World”), Stokes Mitchell (“The Wheel of a Dream”) and Porter (“Edelweiss”). The cast closed with “Let the Sunshine In,” the finale from “Hair,” which is at its core a plea for dark times to end.