It wouldn’t be a Dramatists Guild Fund gala without a little drama. The Sunday night spectacle, held at the Mandarin Oriental New York and honoring composer John Kander, came as something of a surprise to the Broadway legend. “I have no idea who’s going to perform,” said Kander during the pre-gala cocktail hour. “I carefully avoided that. When anyone said, ‘I’ll be …,’ I said, ‘La la la la la.'”
Kander, flanked by Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera during a three-course sit-down meal, looked bowled over as a parade of performers — from Joel Grey to Stockard Channing — belted out his iconic tunes. In fact, Minnelli threatened to send the crowd into cardiac arrest with a finale of Kander’s “New York, New York” that first drew Rivera to the stage, followed by other Kander acolytes like Joshua Henry and Bebe Neuwirth.
“He’s a very shy and humble man, and to be the center of attention is very hard for him,” said Rivera, who told him beforehand, “Just grin and bear it because you went and did this to yourself. You became a genius, and that’s the price you pay for being a genius.”