“These are difficult times,” 20th’s Jim Gianopulos reminded the audience packed into Sony’s Stage 30, site of MGM’s decades of star-studded movie-making. It was the fourth annual “A Fine Romance” — the marriage between movies and Broadway, benefiting the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Jim and wife Ann G. chaired the event, which again starred Catherine Zeta-Jones and Hugh Jackman as cohosts. And what cohosts they were again — with Catherine leading off the program in a dazzling, silver-rhinestone-studded short dress in which she strutted across the stage breathlessly. But first, Jim reminded the audience, crowded into small tables, that the MPTF has recently given away $2 million during the strike. “And those in need are the ones who suffer the most.”
The evening raised $1 million, and the exuberance of the performers no doubt encouraged the already-generous audience to raise more in these increasingly difficult economic times — in the Biz. The motto of the MPTF remains, “We take care of our own.” And on my recent visit to the campus, I was reminded of it, as I saw facility after facility of well-taken residents and visitors.
The wall-to-wall stage was backed by screens projecting footage of the movie hits that made it to Broadway and vice versa. They ranged from the all-time great musicals to dramas to comedies, action — you name it, where music was involved. The show is inspired by “A Fine Romance,” the book by Darcie Denkert who has donated all royalties to the MPTF and the Actors’ Fund. (Dankert was on hand to applaud the performers transporting Movies to B’way and Vice Versa.) And once again John Mauceri masterfully conducted the orchestra in every film and B’way song version.
The program launched with Jonathan Groff, then Kristin Chenoweth and ugh Jackman duetted “Anything You Can Do” from “Annie Get Your Gun” from the stage into the audience — preceded by the film’s version. Neil Patrick Harris followed, as footage of Frank Sinatra’s weddings to Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow, then Alan Cummings and a clip of the Rock Hudson wedding. Amy Adams and James Dearden convinced us on on “Let’s’ Misbehave.” The incomparable Donna Murphy And Zachary Levi followed the footage of Jimmy Cagney carboning, “I”m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Give My Regards to B’way.”
The screens lit up with footage of “West Side Story,” and Audra McDonald and John Lloyd Young convinced us we were in a B’way palace. Everyone delivered like it was opening night on the Great White Way. Catherine Zeta-Jones returned in a slinky silver gown to deliver “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” from “Showboat” as footage showed the showboat — as I saw it filmed — steaming through Lot 3 of MGM (now a retirement community). Victor Garber and Donna Murphy gave us a lotta “Little Night Music” to recall fondly. James Marsden a la Frank Sinatra was backed by a gorgeous chorus line and “I Could Write A Book.” And we could write a rave. Kristin Chenowith took us memorably to “The Little Shop Around The Corner.” And “Carousel” made an auspicious turn with Audra McDonald and Hugh Jackman as “If I Loved You” was again loved by this 2008 audience.
A timely (Proposition 8) theme was noted by Mauceri as he introduced the “Hairspray” reprise with the energetic Elijah Kelly and a dancing chorus of 12. Katherine proved terrific tap terping as well and at 9:45 the entire cast finale’d to “That’s Entertainment.” It certainly was. The show was produced by Dan Jinks and Lauremce Mark. Adam Shankman directed and choreo’d…Wolfgang Puck’s platoons served the pre- and post-party but Wolfie was not on hand, as he was helping his son Byron celebrate his Bar Mitzvah with his friends at the Pacific Design Center. The adults helped him launch the day at Spago after the religious service. Mazel tov.