Thanksgiving on Broadway: How the Theatre Industry Gives Back
Every November, as Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving — a holiday marked by gratitude, togetherness, and giving — Broadway plays an integral role in extending the spirit of this tradition beyond the confines of the home. Broadway, famed for its world-class productions and breathtaking performances, serves not only as a poignant expression of arts and culture, but also as a significant platform that allows the theatre community to give back to the community.
Fewer things encapsulate the American tradition of giving more evidently than Thanksgiving, a holiday steeped in the meaning of gratitude, sharing, and looking beyond oneself. Despite its global fame and glittering allure, at its core, Broadway is a bedrock of communal experiences and collective narratives, a stage where art doesn’t merely entertain but fosters a sense of humanity.
As households across the country gather to celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving, one cannot overlook the profound impact of this tradition on Broadway, an industry known for its ground-breaking dramatic explorations and theatrical innovations. This tradition allows the Broadway community to reinforce its commitment to social responsibility and extend the philosophy of sharing and giving back, beyond the stage. The magical spectacle of Broadway shows and the heartfelt message of Thanksgiving beautifully blend to create a narrative of collective human experience, deeply rooted in empathy, kindness, and mutual support.
Broadway luminary Victoria Clark is no stranger to the spotlight, her sparkling career as a performer is as multifaceted as her talents. Most recently, Clark has been seen in the critically acclaimed musical Kimberly Akimbo, capturing the hearts of audiences with her riveting performance. Set against a suburban backdrop, the musical revolves around a quirky loveable, yet socially awkward teenage girl suffering from a rare condition that causes her to age rapidly. Clark’s Tony®-winning portrayal of the eponymous Kimberly is a feat of empathetic storytelling, effortlessly conflating resonant drama and heartwarming comedy.
But Clark’s commitment to Broadway extends well beyond the stage and engages directly with the broader community. When not captivating audiences on stage, she advocates for furry friends in need through Broadway Barks, a star-studded animal adoption event. Founded by fellow Broadway and TV legends Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, Broadway Barks seeks to find homes for shelter animals in New York City and promote animal welfare. Clark’s involvement in Broadway Barks underlines her deep compassion and commitment to social service, using her Broadway stardom to highlight the need for responsible pet adoption, and to provide safe, loving homes for shelter animals. Together with her rescue golden retriever, Ollie Clark, she and her pup have visited events hosted by Broadway Barks to advocate for animal adoption.
Stepping into the Broadway landscape, the cast of SIX brings a modern and sassy reinterpretation of history via a high-energy pop concert. Brazenly subverting historical stereotypes, the show uniquely chronicles the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives, who in an ambitious twist, decide to reclaim their histories, disconnected from the king who has overshadowed their identities. From Catherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr, the queens emerge as strong, independent women carving their path through the annals of history by the sheer power of song and dance.
The cast of SIX supports PFLAG, the United States’ first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies. With a mission anchored in support, education, and advocacy, PFLAG echoes SIX’s ethos of marginalized narratives reclaiming their space and recognition. The cast, including Hailee Kaleem Wright, Leandra Ellis-Gaston, Nasia Thomas, Zoe Jensen, and Bella Coppola, recently made an appearance at the PFLAG 50th Anniversary Gala event in New York, where over $115,000 was raised in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Adding a unique twist, the creators of SIX have initiated a ‘queen of the week’ hashtag campaign on social media to spotlight and celebrate individuals who exemplify incredible resilience, strength, and spirit.
Known for their powerhouse performances and unparalleled stage presence, J. Harrison Ghee is one of the most celebrated faces on Broadway. Their latest endeavor has seen them step into the high heels of Daphne in the brand new show Some Like It Hot, winning a Tony Award® in the process. This colorful spectacle tells the story of accepting your identity with an exuberance and heart that leaves audiences spellbound. Off the stage, however, Ghee is an ardent supporter of Sing for Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming lives by using the power of the arts.
Sing for Hope uses the universal language of arts to unite communities, schools, and healthcare facilities in New York City and beyond. Their philosophy — that all people deserve access to the arts — aligns seamlessly with Ghee’s advocacy for acceptance and inclusivity. Over the years, Ghee has been a staunch supporter, participating in charitable events such as meet and greets and even make-up lessons, all proceeds going to charity.
Acclaimed for their dynamic charisma and vocal prowess, Alex Newell is a force to be reckoned with on the Broadway stage. Their role in the hilariously corny new musical, Shucked, continues to leave a profound impact in the world of theatre and beyond. The show hilariously tells the story of a small town community fighting off an unexpected corn blight. Newell stars as Lulu, a role that earned them a well deserved Tony® Award.
Away from the spotlights and applause, Newell is an ardent supporter of GLAAD, an organization that was formed with the aspiration of promoting understanding, acceptance, and equal rights for individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. GLAAD harnesses the power of the media to narrate stories of LGBTQ+ individuals, advocating for their equal rights, combating discrimination and promoting acceptance. Alex Newell has often lent their talent to this important cause by actively participating in the annual GLAAD Media Awards. These awards honor media for their fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ+ community and issues that affect their lives. Both by delivering spell-binding performances and presenting awards, Newell is putting their charisma and industry influence to good use.
Few shows have left an indelible mark on the Broadway landscape like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Celebrated for its revolutionized treatment of the American origins narrative with contemporary music and a color-conscious cast, this iconic musical retells the fascinating story of Alexander Hamilton. A masterstroke in narrative storytelling, the show depicts its eponymous character’s transformation from a ‘bastard, orphan, son of a whore’ to a founding father of the United States with an original score that beautifully amalgamates hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and Broadway styles to narrate America’s past while speaking to its present. The result is a theatrical experience both socially relevant and historically enriching, evoking conversations about the nation’s continuous journey towards justice and equality.
While Hamilton’s colossal impact reverberates across the theatre world, its commitment to giving back extends far beyond the stage. The show’s spirit of community service and social justice is embodied in initiatives such as Ham4Progress and The Eliza Project. Ham4Progress is designed to support social causes relevant to the show’s community, like education, social justice, and mentorship. It leverages the popularity of Hamilton to amplify voices that are often marginalized, echoing the show’s ethos of challenging norms and seizing opportunities. Meanwhile, The Eliza Project, a philanthropic endeavor started by Hamilton original cast member Philippa Soo, brings arts education to Graham Windham, the real-life orphanage founded by Hamilton’s wife, Eliza.
Renowned for his rich baritone and soulful performances, Josh Groban has earned a place in the pantheon of Broadway stars. Currently, he’s undertaking the leading role in Stephen Sondheim’s iconic Sweeney Todd, a macabre tale of a London barber turned serial killer. Groban’s portrayal of Todd showcases his ability to delve deep into complex characters while delivering a vocally challenging performance, enriching the Broadway landscape with his unique artistry.
Offstage, Groban’s commitment to philanthropy is manifested in the Find Your Light Foundation, a non-profit organization he founded to ensure every child has the opportunity to experience a quality arts education. The foundation believes that arts education helps foster discipline, integrity, and self-confidence, with the transformative potential to alter the trajectory of a child’s life. Groban’s perspective undoubtedly resonates with the spirit of Broadway, wherein arts and humanity frequently interweave. He consistently supports the foundation by contributing to their fundraising efforts, promoting their mission, and actively participating in their events. For instance, he has performed countless benefit concerts whose proceeds have augmented the foundation’s resources significantly.
It’s impossible to talk about giving back without mentioning Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Entertainment Community Fund, two of the most notable charities that the Broadway community proudly supports. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, one of the nation’s leading industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations, is an inspiring example of the theatre industry’s commitment to social responsibility. The organization raises funds for both AIDS-related and other important causes across the United States – and the Broadway community is a significant contributor to this noteworthy cause. Likewise, the Entertainment Community Fund works tirelessly to provide support and assistance to those in the entertainment industry who have fallen on hard times.
Broadway holds a mystic charm for theatergoers across the globe, its masterpiece productions, and unparalleled talent creating an immersive experience that transcends entertainment. However, beyond the dazzling marquees, foot-tapping music, and spectacular performances, Broadway represents a community devoted to serving causes that extend the boundaries of the stage, epitomizing the essence of Thanksgiving – sharing and giving back.
This generous spirit of the Broadway community manifests in various ways. These efforts are just a glimpse into the plethora of ways Broadway professionals dedicate their resources and influence to the causes they believe in. It’s not just about putting on a great show, but also about making meaningful contributions that enrich and uplift society.
As fans and patrons of Broadway, each one of us has a unique opportunity to support these charities and causes. We also get a chance to further strengthen Broadway’s humanitarian efforts by spreading awareness and contributing to these causes, regardless of how modest our efforts may be.
So, as November rolls in bringing with it the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to support these causes and appreciate the spectacular shows these artists are a part of. Broadway, after all, is not just a testament to human creativity and theatres but a reflection of the spirit of empathy, shared experiences, and giving back. So why not plan a Broadway adventure this Thanksgiving, relish some world-class entertainment and contribute to a cause that goes beyond the stage? Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving with Broadway, experiencing the magic of theatre as we pay homage to the spirit of giving.