“The Rosie O’Donnell Show” is back.
O’Donnell’s talk show returned for one night only on Sunday to serve as a fundraiser for The Actors Fund, an organization that provides numerous services for people in need in the performing arts and entertainment business.
The evening raised more than $600,000, which included $100,000 from O’Donnell.
The three-and-a-half-hour show, produced by O’Donnell and “Madame Secretary” star Erich Bergen, was broadcast live on Broadway.com and the website’s YouTube channel.
She opened the show by explaining she was hosting from her garage/art studio in New Jersey and then introduced her former musical director John McDaniel.
She also insisted she didn’t want to talk about President Donald Trump because she wanted to focus on people getting through the pandemic. “We’re going to come through it,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell’s first guest was Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who recalled appearing on her talk show in 1998 with Lea DeLaria to promote his first Broadway show, “On the Town.” Titus Burgess provided the first musical performance by singing “The Glory of Love” followed by Gloria Estefan.
Here are the 11 most memorable moments of the show:
1. Lin-Manuel Miranda said he was working on “finishing” the score of the big screen adaptation of his musical “In the Heights.” He also mentioned he had tickets for the opening of Broadway’s “Company” on Sunday for Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday. During self-quarantine, he showed his kids “Singing in the Rain” and has binged Netflix’ cheerleading reality series, “Cheer.”
2. “Company” star Patti LuPone said she wasn’t sure if the show would return when Broadway re-opens, then sang two songs, including “Smile.” She also offered a glimpse into her house, which included a jukebox, a pinball machine and an old-school of rack of cassette tapes.
3. Idina Menzel admitted that homeschooling her 10-year-old son with her husband has hit some bumps, especially math lessons about fractions. “He gets angry and the thinks we’re just so stupid,” the “Frozen 2” star said, laughing.
4. After mentioning that the live-action adaptation of “Little Mermaid” was put on hold, composer and songwriter Alan Menken said that he wrote four new songs for the film with Miranda. Behind Menken’s piano was a grandfather clock, a possible ode to Cogsworth from “Beauty and the Beast.”
5. Brian Stokes Mitchell, president of the Actors Fund of America, highlighted recent work of the group, including paying a diabetic musician’s health insurance premium after he lost all his work in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The organization’s addiction services are providing in-person counseling for people in recovery but within proper social-distancing guidelines. “Many people are living on the edge right now and having a hard time getting by,” Mitchell said.
6. Asked who some of her favorite leading men have been, Chita Rivera named Antonio Banderas. The two starred in the 2003 production of “Nine.” She recalled ribbing her friends, “You came to see the show, ‘Nine,’ but tell the truth, you came for Antonio.”
7. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick appeared together. “We’re doing a lot of cooking and laundry,” Parker said. The two were set to open in “Plaza Suite” after they finished a three-week run in Boston. “Broadway closed the day of our first preview,” Broderick said. Parker said they remain “optimistic” that the show will still go on at some point.
8. In a pre-taped video, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who turned 72 on Sunday, sang “Happy Birthday” to Sondheim followed by another video of Sondheim, while washing his hands, singing the same to Webber.
9. Billy Porter, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with O’Donnell’s idol Barbra Streisand (Randy Rainbow wore the same shirt during his appearance), recalled enlisting the help of The Actors Fund when he filed for bankruptcy and didn’t have anywhere to live. “I’m not embarrassed by that,” said the “Pose” star, who appeared on the original “Rosie O’Donnell Show” eight times, adding, “Anybody can fall on hard times.”
10. Gavin Creel revealed for the first time that he thinks he has coronavirus because he has symptoms, including a cough, headaches and the loss of taste and smell. He was in a recent run of “Waitress” in London and found out that a cast member recently tested positive for COVID-19.
11. Barry Manilow closed the show. “I was listening to ‘Even Now’ in the bathtub yesterday and it was killing me in the best way,” O’Donnell. The legendary crooner sang some of his biggest hits, including “Copacabana” and “I Made It Through Rain.” “Thanks for inviting me on your show,” Manilow said, adding, “I hope you’ll do it again.”
The Actors Fund includes the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center, The Career Center and The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. It also provides emergency financial assistance as well as services for housing, addiction and recovery and HIV/AIDS.