|Bollywood dancers from Ishaara: Neerah Kohirkar, Neju Desai and Nickesin Viswantham. Photo by Rink.
A Help Is on the Way Valentine benefit gala, âAll You Need Is Love 2,â featured stars from stage, screen, and music studios donating their time and talent to put on a fabulously entertaining show for charity at Marines Memorial Theatre. Produced by Ken Henderson and Joe Seiler of the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF), the spectacular event benefited two HIV prevention programs, Stop AIDS Project and AGUILAS. The stage was covered with Valentine hearts and red roses as the first act, Ishaara, danced a medley from the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, and other Indian tunes and choreography a la Bollywood.
Changing the mood to humorous, funnyman Leslie Jordan came out as Cupid in nothing but a red satin Valentine-patterned diaper, red sunglasses, red tennis shoes, white feather wings, and a quiver full of arrows. He told bizarre tales of a past lover shooting him with a crossbow and about his upcoming comedy film with Jennifer Coolidge (âStifflerâs momâ) in a trailer trash role and him as a high school drama coach along the lines of TVâs Glee.
Grammy and Oscar award-winning (âThe Morning Afterâ) Maureen McGovern wowed the house with her captivating a cappella version of âMy Funny Valentine,â sung without a microphone. Impressive volume control! David Burnham (Fiyero in Broadwayâs Wicked) sang a sexy âProud Ladyâ from The Bakerâs Wife, in which he sang of the love of his life who happened to be another manâs wife â the one true love (for the second time that day anyway). Kim Nalley explained her love of blues and jazz, especially Billie Holiday, and gave a brilliant version of âCrazy He Calls Meâ (which was chosen as her recent wedding song) with Tammy Hall on piano. Nick Lazzarini (winner of TVâs So You Think You Can Dance) staged an erotic modern dance interpretation to Princeâs âHow Come You Donât Call Meâ with his shirt seductively open to reveal abs of death as he whirled, twirled, and executed tricky acrobatics across the stage. Tim Hockenberry on keyboards joined the amazing Maria Muldaur (who can forget âMidnight at the Oasisâ?) to both sing Issac Hayesâ âTo Make You Feel My Loveâ with voices blending in a smoky duet.
Jordan the Cupid returned holding a huge pink heart-shaped pillow to his crotch and announcing, âIâve got a heart-on!â He spoke of one of the oddest moments of his career, filming a Japanese commercial for sakĂ© with a heroin-addicted Boy George in the triple-digit Mojave Desert heat dressed in a monkey suit, riding on a white horse. Disco diva Jeanie Tracy is in town to play the title role in Mahalia Jackson, so she took us all to church with âWhen the Saints Go Marching In,â getting everyone to sing and clap along. Terrance Spencer and Greg Haney (both dancers from Wicked) created their own choreography to âEnd of the Worldâ with these two male dancers in a gorgeous pas de deux, acting out such phrases as: âI just want to stay with you tonight.â Closing the first act, La Toya London (American Idol runner-up and star in Broadwayâs The Color Purple) knocked it out of the park with her version of âSomewhereâ from West Side Story, gradually building from decrescendo to vibrating crescendo echoing throughout the hall.
Hockenberry opened the second act with his special slower rendition of âI Left My Heart in San Francisco,â relating how his home City is his favorite of all the cities he has visited. Carly Ozard showed off her classically trained mezzo-soprano as well as twisted humor in a set from Bitter and Be Gay, about her experience of turning straight men queer and being The Cityâs famed fag hag. Her operatic upbringing kept shining through, despite her crazy fruit fly rewording of the Candide number, âGlitter and Be Gay.â David Burnham joined Karen Roberts to romantically yet bitter-sweetly duet in âWritten in the Starsâ from Aida about star-crossed lovers in paradise âfor only one day.â Teal Wicks (the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked) picked up the pace with a lively âI Love You I Doâ from Dreamgirls, singing of âthe perfect man.â Sharon Gless (direct from her hit play, A Round-Heeled Woman, also known for TVâs Cagney and Lacey and Queer as Folk) spoke of her first really impressive kiss as an adolescent and then gave a dramatic reading of Elizabeth Barrett Browningâs âHow Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.â So enchanting!
Jeanie Tracy returned to disco-fy the audience with her famous âItâs Raining Menâ (everybody singing along with gusto) followed by her latest hit âParty Peopleâ (âshake your body; lemme see you sweatâ). Jordan made a final appearance, commenting he wanted to take Quaaludes and snort poppers after Tracyâs hot â70s set. He confessed there was only one person who could make him dress in just a diaper on stage â David Galligan, director of the show, who he admired very much, and told on him about going to an all male strip show together to see âswinginâ dicks.â Muldaur, accompanied on keyboards by Hockenberry gave a bluesy, gritty âPlease Send Me Somebody to Loveâ with an introduction about how the song back in the â50s was not just a cry for a lover but for the whole earth to love one another and stop war. She noted that the song still holds true during this current time of war overseas when we continue to cry out for world peace. Muldaur turned the one word âpleaseâ into a seventeen-syllable cry and got a huge well-deserved round of thunderous applause.
Rita Moreno (Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy winner) made her fourth appearance in a âHelp Is on the Wayâ production. She gave a moving monologue about love coming along when one least expects it, and then burst forth into âThe Way He Makes Me Feelâ from Yentl and âHe Loves Meâ from She Loves Me, with this dignified woman ending by giving a Michael Jackson crotch-grab. Wild!
McGovern returned to sing âOrdinary Miracles,â but not before introducing two people very much connected to REAF, Deb Scheer the mother of Dillon, who she adopted as an AIDS baby, and who has grown into a fine young man joyously celebrating his 20th birthday that night at the after-party.
McGovern spoke of the more than 30 AIDS service organizations that REAF has helped over the years. These are surely examples of âordinary miraclesâ that âhappen all around, just by giving and receiving,â as the song goes, and continues, âLove in its extraordinary way, makes ordinary miracles evâry blessed day!â
For the grand finale, the entire cast assembled to sing the most appropriate Gershwinsâ âOur Love Is Here to Stay.â REAF love is definitely here to stay, and will return very soon with its ongoing series of âOne Night Only Cabaretâ AIDS fundraisers, featuring the cast and crew of hit musicals in town for a local run. Check out richmondermet.org for the latest musical night of love and giving.