Darren Criss melted hearts in the audience at Broadway’s St. James Theater when he auctioned off a serenade as part of Monday night’s Voices for the Voiceless fundraiser benefitting a Gotham-based org that facilitates adoptions for older children in foster care.
The chance to be on stage while the “Glee” hearthrob, now on Broadway in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” crooned the Carpenters’ classic “Close to You” fetched $30,000 during the live auction from two women in the audience. One of the bidders sent her 7-year-old daughter Ella on to the stage to collect, to Criss’ obvious delight.
“Thank you,” he told Ella after finishing the tune. “That was for me.”
The fundraiser orchestrated by actor-musician Seth Rudetsky and his husband, James Wesley, put the spotlight on the work of You Gotta Believe, a non-profit that focuses on finding families for foster care kids ages 16 and above. Kids older than 8 are the hardest to place in permanent homes, which makes teenagers the toughest cases of all.
The emotional evening featured testimonials from industry notables who came through foster care as children, including director Antwone Fisher, actress Charlene Tilton and fashion maven Tony Shellman. Legit stars including Megan Hilty, Eden Espinosa and Tituss Burgess performed songs selected by youths who have been aided by You Gotta Believe.
Hilty soared on a rendition of “Second Hand White Baby Grande” from NBC’s “Smash,” with accompaniment from the song’s co-writer, Marc Shaiman. She also led a group of kids through “Do-Re-Mi.” Comedian Caroline Rhea handled the live auction duties.
But the highlight of the night was Jane Krakowski’s rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” that was punctuated by a hilarious running commentary from her “30 Rock” co-star Tina Fey. “Don’t cry out loud? Terrible advice,” Fey said as Krakowski paused between lines. “I think Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager were day-drunk when they wrote this song.”
The evening raised more than $500,000 for You Gotta Believe and the Council on Adoptable Children.