Elegies for Angels, Punks, And Raging Queens Benefitting BC/EFA
On December 1st, 2020, World AIDS Day, Broadway On Demand presented a virtual presentation of Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens.
The show had two free streamings, and while anyone could tune in to the exciting live event, audience members were encouraged to make a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Funds raised through these showings help people across the U.S.A who are affected by HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, and other critical illnesses by providing meals, medication, financial aid, counselling, and housing.
The virtual performance was directed by Bill Russell and Justin Ross Cohen, with music direction by Janet Hood, and was produced by Jim Kierstead and Broadway Virtual, Jim Head, Sanity & Eric Nelsen, Rusty & Molly Ried, The Worx Productions LTD, Linda Karn, Daniel Mitura/Jill Steinburg, Ann Moore/Jane Furse, and Justin Ross Cohen, in association with The Abingdon Theatre Company (Chad Austin, Artistic Director).
Casting for this presentation was by Stephen DeAngelis.
Featuring fifty performers, this production features performances from an impressive line up of artists, including: Brooks Ashmanskas, Laura Bell Bundy, Paul Castree, Richard Chamberlain, Charity Angel Dawson, Robin de Jesus, Fran Drescher, J. Harrison Ghee, Gideon Glick, Stephanie Gibson, Lana Gordon, Alan H. Green, Lena Hall, Jayne Houdyshell, Lisa Howard, James Monroe Inglehart, Famke Janssen, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Cherry Jones, Francis Jue, Joaquina Kalukango, Tari Kelly, Nathan Lane, Norm Lewis, Vicki Lewis, Telly Leung, Alyse Alan Louis, Andrea Macasaet, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Kevin McHale, Eric William Morris, Jessie Meuller, Michael Notardonato, Okieriete Onaodowan, Royina Patel, Anthony Rapp, Jeffery Roberson, Krysta Rodriguez, Seth Rudetsky, Kirsten Scott, Matthew Scott, Michael James Scott, JK Simmons, Robin Lord Taylor, Evan Todd, Mariand Torres, Alysha Umphress, Anna Uzele, Marisha Wallace, Cynthia Nixon, and Michael Xavier.
The stream also includes a roster of special guests such as Danny Burstein, Judith Light, Billy Porter, and Michael Urie.
Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens has a book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Janet Hood. Premiering in 1989 at the height of the AIDS pandemic in the United States, this musical is a tribute to, as well as a celebration of the many lives lost to AIDS.
The show is presented as a series of songs and monologues. The touching words are from characters who passed away from AIDS, while the songs are from loved ones grieving their loss.
For this virtual performance of Elegies, actors filmed their parts from home, and everything was pieced together for the live. This beautifully edited presentation involved virtual backgrounds and photos from the movement connected to the AIDS epidemic.
One of my favourite things about this specific musical is the intimacy, and in this way, the performance was elevated in the virtual space. It was almost like having a Zoom call or individual conversation which each character who comes forward to share their stories.
With a cast of fifty performers made up of stage and screen’s finest, and this incredible piece of theatre, there were so many highlights for me while watching this stream. But I did pick a few to share here.
The opening number, "Angels, Punks, And Raging Queens", is one of my favourite opening numbers of all time, and was sung by one of my favourite performers, Lena Hall. Similarly, "Learning To Let Go is one of my favourite closing numbers of all time and was sung by Norm Lewis, another stage favourite. Because of this, both moments were highlights for me.
A few of my other favourite musical performances included Michael Xavier’s “And The Rain Keeps Falling Down”, Anna Uzele and Andrea Macaseat’s “Celebrate”, and Jessie Meuller’s “My Brother Lived In San Francisco”. Other standouts for me were Krysta Rodriguez, Nathan Lane, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Seth Rudetsky, Laura Bell Bundy, and Robin de Jesus. .
One of my favourite stories is the one brought to life by Cynthia Nixon and Marisha Wallace, and it was such a joy to watch them connect through the screen.
Over the years, Elegies has been updated continuously, making it a living, breathing piece of theatre history. The show has always worked against the stigma and stereotypes surrounding HIV/AIDS, which existed then, and now, by showcasing a variety of individual characters who have been affected by the virus in many different ways.
It’s a beautiful, intimate story which has always kept its relevance, and during the time of COVID-19, it carries an extra layer of heaviness. Taking place during another pandemic, it so accurately represents the universal grief we all feel; the collective as well as personal loss we are all experiencing.
For example, the new monologue written for Nathan Lane combines the difficulty of both of these difficult times and each virus, and the touching “Heroes All Around” became a tribute not only to healthcare workers, caregivers and activists then, but those risking their lives now.
This virtual performance of Elegies was the perfect way not only to commemorate World AIDS Day and to benefit BC/EFA, but to highlight what theatre is going to look like during this new pandemic.
If you missed this performance, you have until December 5th to watch it on Broadway On Demand!
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS does accept donations year round, please consider making a donation to them today if you are able.