Broadway regulars and a handful of hopefuls and gypsies gathered in concert at City Center Monday, raising a cool million dollars to benefit reconstructive surgery for children’s facial disorders. Lacking a theme or point of view, “Broadway for Medicine” was a rather unfocused spoonful of song, occasionally heightened by a star turn.
Opener by Rosie’s Broadway Kids assembled two dozen youngsters, comprising mostly African-American and Hispanic tots, who saluted theater row with the 1935 movie tune “Lullaby of Broadway.” Energy and great big smiles were uniformly in abundance.
Pert and pure, Melissa Errico — a lovely vision in black velvet — appeared a tad nervous with her torchy but somewhat tenuously executed selection. She did manage to mine the big hurt of “He Was Too Good To Me” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, but it was an unwise choice so early in the evening.
Midway in the 90-minute concert something quite extraordinary happened. Mimi Hines, who made a stirring return to the Gotham stage in the recent Encores! presentation of “Follies,” reprised a theatrical moment from four decades ago when she replaced Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” at the Winter Garden. The song was “The Music That Makes Me Dance.” From a subtle, kittenish purr, Hines lifted the ballad to deliver a bold clarion confessional that prompted the evening’s heartiest audience response.
Following Hines’ turn, Broadway musical representation took a dive with a numbing excerpt from “Tarzan,” gamely performed by Josh Strickland, Jenn Gambatese and Chester Gregory. Next was an earnest reading of Peter Mills’ “Way Ahead of My Time,” intensely performed by Malcolm Gets.
For a distinctive tandem closer, a couple of theatrical grande dames, Donna McKechnie and Betty Buckley, elevated the evening by reprising their award-winning Broadway performances.
McKechnie revisited “A Chorus Line,” moving in the small stage space with the classic elegance of a prima ballerina, and reclaiming her past glory with “The Music and the Mirror.” A hard act to follow perhaps, but Buckley, a Texas gal who knows something about true grit, recalled a couple of bold theatrical career highlights, delivering “Memory” from “Cats” and “With One Look” from “Sunset Boulevard.” Buckley, who returns March 27 to Feinstein’s at the Regency for a two-week stand, redefined the role of a legend with poise and grace.
Julie Halston hosted, delivering some well targeted bon mots, and John McDaniel fronted an elaborately large orchestra that was just what the doctor ordered.