Rain couldn’t stop Broadway from shining this weekend.
The Curtain Up Broadway Festival returned for a second year, filling Times Square with the sounds of cheering fans as they watched live performances from some of their favorite musicals.
The weekend-long event kicked off Friday afternoon and featured Broadway-centric programming and concerts free of cost and open to the public.
Broadway News was in attendance on Sunday morning as excited fans crowded the perimeters of the Main Stage in Duffy Square for the festival’s culminating live concert.
“We had our first ‘Curtain Up’ last year. It’s been 13 months. We’ve had over 10 million people see a Broadway show, and we expect to have another 15 million this year,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, ahead of the concert’s start on Sunday.
Hosted by Amber Ruffin and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sunday’s finale concert was broadcast by WABC. The presentation featured direction by Sammi Cannold and musical direction by Daryl Waters. Material for the concert was written by Ruffin and Eric Ulloa. Music was provided by The Music Performance Trust Fund. American Sign Language interpreters were on hand throughout the weekend, with accessibility services provided by Invest in Access.
Fans were treated to performances from long-running Broadway favorites including “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Chicago.”
Ferguson and Ruffin interacted with the audience during commercial breaks, snapping selfies and encouraging participation. Some performers stuck around for those breaks to answer questions from the two hosts, giving those in attendance more perspective and special insight.
There were also performances from some of last season’s Tony Award-winning musicals. Myles Frost led the company of “MJ” in their version of “Man in the Mirror,” while Jaquel Spivey performed a solo rendition of “Inner White Girl” from “A Strange Loop.”
Celebrating the new Broadway season, fans were treated to sneak-peek performances from the upcoming “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical” and “& Juliet.” Will Swenson had the crowd singing along during “Sweet Caroline” while Lorna Courtney ended the concert with “Since U Been Gone.” André De Shields was also on hand to celebrate this season’s revival of “Death of a Salesman” and bring attention to the fact that, for the first time, the story is being told from the perspective of a Black family.
Perhaps the most poignant performance came from Emilie Kouatchou, Broadway’s current Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera.” She received a standing ovation from members of the seated crowd for her emotional performance of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” — with the lyrics “help me say goodbye” carrying more weight following the news that the history-making musical will close in February.
The Curtain Up Broadway Festival was presented by Playbill, The Broadway League, the Times Square Alliance and title sponsor Prudential Financial.