CHRISTMAS EVE PLAYS SANTA FOR BROADWAY'S LEADING MEN
The incomparable Ann Harada returned to make her holiday wishes – and those of some of Broadway's hunkiest leading men – come true as Avenue Q's politically incorrect and hysterical Christmas Eve celebrated the holidays with a one-night-only benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
For the third year, Harada stepped into the character that she made famous as Christmas Eve with Christmas Eve proved again to be a hilarious and sometimes touching evening of Broadway show tunes, with interchanged Ls and Rs, and shameless exploitation of her leading men. The December 12, 2011, show raised more than $6,600 for Broadway Cares.
Avenue Q’s favorite "loquaciously challenged" therapist has always had big dreams and this year "Santa Baby" has come to deliver. But since we’re in an economic downturn, Santa is granting her just one wish. After thinking about asking for hard-to-get tickets to The Book of Mormon, Christmas Eve opts to sing with Broadway's best leading men.
Ever the generous hostess, Christmas Eve even helped some of her friends fulfill their own holiday dreams.
Porgy & Bess star Norm Lewis slipped away from his show's tech rehearsal long enough to sing a duet of Ragtime's "Wheels of a Dream" while Christmas Eve found time to let her wondering hands just happen to unbutton Lewis' shirt during the song.
Telly Leung, currently starring in the revival of Godspell, shared that his dream was to be in Side Show. So he and Christmas Eve belted out "Who Will Love Me as I Am?" as Daisy and Violet Hilton, complete with matching outfits.
Jose Llana, who most recently appeared on Broadway in Wonderland, sought a singing partner for his dream role: Tony in West Side Story. In a hilarious rendition of "Tonight," Christmas Eve played an enchanting Maria.
Daniel Jenkins, Broadway’s original Huck Finn in Big River and the singing voice of Huck in the 2003 Deaf West revival, once again reprised his role for a Big River medley with Christmas Eve singing the role of Jim.
Raymond J. Lee, from the current revival of Anything Goes, always wanted to be in Les Misérables, but with no Asian characters, as he explained, he's had little chance. Christmas Eve fulfilled his dream to sing Marius with the duet of "Little Fall of Rain" (or, as Christmas Eve, sang it, "Rittre Farr of Lain").
Avenue Q was well represented by other alumni cast members, too. Jordan Gelber, who created the role of Christmas Eve's husband Brian, joined her for a rendition of "You'll Never Get Away from Me" from Gypsy. And Howie Michael Smith, accompanied by everyone's favorite closeted gay Republican puppet, Rod, arrived to sing a medley of holiday favorites performed in a decidedly Broadway style.
Broadway veteran Marc Kudisch challenged Christmas Eve to a sing-off with "Anything You Can Do." The pair went head-to-head with sweet melodies, high notes, the Japanese language and, in a reprise of his Thoroughly Modern Millie song "The Speed Test," diction. Guess who took home that prize?
Other guest stars included Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Newsies) performing as The Artful Dodger with Oliver’s "Consider Yourself," Patrick Page (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Daddy Warbucks to Christmas Eve’s Annie with "I Don’t Need Anything But You" and Austin Miller from the TV reality show Grease: You’re the One That I Want, who literally gave up the shirt off his back to sing with Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve even showed off her moves in two dance numbers, "Whatever Lola Wants" and "I’ve Got Your Number" backed up by Wicked alumni Al Blackstone and Adam Fleming.
Before she said good night, Christmas Eve brought down the excitement a little to channel Judy Garland in a touching rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that left many a misty eye in the audience. She finished the evening with a rousing rendition of "All I Want for Christmas is You."
Christmas Eve with Christmas Eve was performed at New York City's Midtown Theatre. It was directed by Alan Muraoka with choreography by Mark Myars and musical direction by Gary Adler.
Harada originated the role of Christmas Eve in both the Broadway and London productions of the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q. Her other Broadway credits include 9 to 5, Les Misérables, Seussical The Musical and M. Butterfly. She recently appeared in the Off-Broadway hit Love, Loss, and What I Wore and in George Street Playhouse’s production of God of Carnage. She also was featured in The Actors Fund productions of Chess and Hair. Her TV work includes Lipstick Jungle, Cashmere Mafia, Johnny and the Sprites and The Electric Company.
Photos by Peter James Zielinski