After a four-year pandemic hiatus, the Jane Elissa Extravaganza returned on Monday night, October 23, for its 33rd annual installment to raise funds for leukemia and cancer research. Held high above Times Square in the Skylight Room on the 16th floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel, the packed event featured a roster of stars from the stage and screen, presentations of special honors, and silent and live auctions and a raffle of Broadway-themed items, along with the Jane Elissa Mini-Boutique of original designs by the eponymous artist.
The benefit was hosted by Tony-winning producer Dale Badway (the Broadway revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), who kicked off the show, introduced the cast and honorees, kept the crowd in stitches, and displayed his versatility with a moving rendition of the nostalgic ballad “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks. Backed by pianist Ben Rauch, the cast of luminaries – Sean McDermott (Miss Saigon; Falsettos; Grease), The Boy Band Project, Kristen Alderson (Annie; The Marvelous Wonderettes), Taylor Crousore (NEWSical the Musical; A Musical about Star Wars), Cassie Blanchette (The Little Mermaid), singer/songwriter Jordan Siwak, Max Sangerman (A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical; Smokey Joe’s Cafe), and Nick Fradiani (A Beautiful Noise; American Idol) – performed musical numbers from Broadway and beyond, including high-energy covers of hits by the boy bands of the 1990s and some of their own original compositions.
In addition to the sensational songs, the late Jackie Zeman (a 45-year veteran of General Hospital), who lost her short battle with cancer in May of this year, was honored for her longtime participation in the event and commitment to the cause, with the presentation of a special recognition to her daughters and sister by Jane Elissa, Badway, and guest Johnny Wactor, who appeared with Zeman on the daytime drama. Fradiani, who will assume the lead role of Neil Diamond in the Broadway production of A Beautiful Noise at the end of this month, was also honored, with Jane Elissa’s Breakout Shining Star award. He and castmate Sangerman closed the Extravaganza with a rousing performance of “Sweet Caroline,” with the audience singing along and leaving the fundraiser feeling “so good, so good, so good!”
Thanks to Jane Elissa, the performers, special guests, and audience for their contributions to this important and uplifting fundraising event to aid in cancer research.