Hugh Jackman emcees theater celebration
The late Gerald Schoenfeld received an affectionate sendoff from the legit community Monday afternoon at a memorial service held in honor of the former chairman of the Shubert Organization, the Broadway landlord and producing company.
Hugh Jackman, a favorite of Schoenfeld’s since the thesp toplined hit Rialto tuner “The Boy From Oz” in 2003, emceed the event, which included appearances by Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gotham Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
The event drew a hefty crowd, including a long train of legit players who lined up in front of the Majestic Theater, the “Phantom of the Opera” venue where the memorial was held.
Organized by producer Bill Haber, the tribute recalled not only Schoenfeld’s love of Broadway and his devotion to the industry but also the rep he earned for his steely determination.
“We always did what he said, didn’t we?” Haber asked as an aside, during a story about a custom-made gift to Schoenfeld that was intended to look like a bulldog but ended up resembling a pig.
Schoenfeld, who died Nov. 25, had a long legacy on Broadway. He had led the Shubert Org, the chain that owns and/or operates 17 of the 39 Broadway theaters, since 1973. With his longtime partner, the late Bernard B. Jacobs, he is largely credited with helping to pull the industry out of the slump of the 1970s and 1980s and was instrumental in the clean-up of Times Square.
Songs for the tribute, often sung by the original performers, were drawn from tuners for which Schoenfeld held well-known fondness, including commercially troubled projects. Creators Stew and Heidi Rodewald sang “Keys” from last season’s Schoenfeld fave “Passing Strange,” and Melissa Errico performed “Somebody” from the short-lived 2002 offering “Amour.”
“This theater village that we live in has lost a great village elder,” said Robert Fox, producer of the notoriously turbulent Broadway preem of “Chess,” another show beloved by Schoenfeld.
Among other offerings on the bill were Priscilla Lopez singing “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line” and Betty Buckley’s rendition of “Memory” from “Cats.”
Schoenfeld’s tough side was the subject of multiple wisecracks.
“He’s already arguing with God about air rights,” said Bloomberg, imagining Schoenfeld’s current activities in heaven.
Event, which ran about one hour, 45 minutes, concluded with a slide show of family photos as well as a video of Schoenfeld singing, not very well, a bastardized version of a song from “Gypsy.”
“Everything here was done for love, and you came for love,” Schoenfeld’s wife, Pat, said to the assembled crowd. “But I never let him sing in the shower.”