On Sunday, the first-ever virtual iteration of the MCC Theater‘s much-beloved “Miscast” gala debuted, with its typical soaring vocals in tow. Originally slated to be held in the Hammerstein Ballroom this past April, the event featured pre-taped performances from Heather Headley, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Joshua Henry, Norbert Leo Butz, Rob McClure and more.
For those unfamiliar with the benefit hosted by the Off-Broadway theater, the premise is simple. Some of Broadway’s biggest stars convene to perform roles that they typically would not be cast to sing. In the past, the fun-filled event has brought us Katrina Lenk in “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Raúl Esparza in “A Boy Like That” from “West Side Story,” and (in one of the program’s most-streamed numbers) young stars Luca Padovan, Joshua Colley and Douglas Baldeo in “The Schuyler Sisters” from “Hamilton.”
The digital performance, which streams until midnight Sept. 17, marked the first time the program was staged entirely online since its 2001 debut, though (as noted by MCC’s Bernie Telsey) the performances excerpted from galas-past have racked up millions of views on YouTube.
Some of the pieces from the evening, like Robbie Fairchild’s “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from “Sweet Charity” (danced, fittingly, on a roof) took on the verve of short sketches, elevating the performances from the stage to a multi-dimensional set of their own. Others, like Heather Headley’s rapturous vocalization of “Endless Night” from “The Lion King,” drew part of their allure from the simplicity of singing at home without ornamentation.
After a pre-show populated with a “rewind” to previous performances, the gala got to a start with several members of the original “Hairspray” cast, who popped up on the screen in groups to sing “Telephone Hour” from “Bye Bye Birdie,” uniting Marissa Jaret Winokur, Kerry Butler, Laura Bell Bundy, Jenn Gambatese, Shayna Steele, Kamilah Marshall, Judine Somerville, Harvey Fierstein, Jackie Hoffman, Matthew Morrison and Corey Reynolds.
Telsey, who spoke to the audience from the MCC’s 52nd Street theater in Hell’s Kitchen, was joined by staff members and Broadway alums (including Judith Light, Jocelyn Bioh and Julianna Margulies, among others) to usher along the performances.
“Theater is a powerful way to bring us together in community. Art creates a bridge to connection,” Light said, setting the tone of the evening in her introduction to Ingrid Michaelson and Lauren Ridloff, who sang “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen.”
As the night continued, Rob McClure donned an apron to make “The Worst Pies in London” in the style of “Sweeney Todd” (reader, he ate cat food); Adrienne Warren performed “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly!” (a role that we wouldn’t mind seeing her in sometime in the future); and Isaac Powell sang “On My Own” from “Les Misérables,” dedicated to “anybody who is quarantining alone, who doesn’t have a loved one nearby, and who has been alone for so long and hasn’t been touched in so long they are starting to hallucinate.”
Phillipa Soo sang a beautiful rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific,” while fellow “Hamilton” alum Leslie Odom Jr. was joined by Nicolette Robinson (performing a harmony with herself) in “The Human Heart” from “Once on This Island.” Also on the list of powerful performances, Joshua Henry played a guitar for his take on “Tomorrow” from “Annie.”
Norbert Leo Butz (who shares a record with Kelli O’Hara for most “Miscast” appearances) performed “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” in front of a dazzling fireplace adorned with warm, glowing candles. And, connecting the thread, Beanie Feldstein stepped into the “shoes” of Butz to perform his role in “Wicked,” during which Feldstein sang “Dancing Through Life” with Jackie the dog and a surprise appearance from Kristin Chenoweth.
In addition to raising money for the theater, the performance also benefited the Mental Health Coalition, which aims to shift the stigma around mental health issues.
You can stream the full performance through midnight Sept. 17. Fundraising is ongoing.
Top Image: Phillipa Soo singing "Some Enchanted Evening" in "MISCAST20." Photo: MCC Theater.