As the alternative inauguration festivities began on Friday, Concert For America relieved Inauguration Day worries of many Americans. The concert, which featured tons of Broadway talent, was focused not only on lifting spirits but promoting positivity now, during these uncertain times, as well as going forward. Concert For America's emphasis on love outweighing hate was exactly what (I feel I can safely say) many of us needed as President Donald J. Trump officially began his term as our 45th president. In my mind, there was no better way to light the mood and leave a lasting message than with song, dance, and a lot of laughter.
The show began with one of the concert's creators, Broadway vet James Wesley, taking the stage for a droll pre-show chat. "This is an emotional day," he began. There was a slight shakiness to his voice, betraying a sense of nervousness about the tone of Inauguration Day. Wesley went on to note that, for those participating in the concert as well as those who were watching the concert, "We are optimists at heart," and that was precisely the trait that he hoped that Concert For America would build on.
What Concert For America ending up proving is that not only does love trump hate, but that it can appear in many forms, especially those artistic ones. And, boy, do they have a way of really healing people.
The show began with Kelli O'Hara singing "Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific, a song she sang plenty when she was in the Broadway revival in 2008. It's emphasis on remaining positive through any stormy time to the point of plucky perseverance is something fellow concert organizer Seth Rudetsky noted was the attitude we should all have going forward.
As the concert proceeded, it was tough to resist the vibrant and happily infectious pull towards love. As the entire cast took the stage to sing "What The World Needs Now," I found myself holding back tears as I watched, overwhelmed that so much goodness could be contained on one stage.
What the World Needs Now is ❤️💛💚💙💜 #Concert4America— Concert For America (@Concert4America) January 20, 2017
The need for love in our nation was a theme that came up again and again, from Billy Porter's rendition of "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music to Brian Stokes Mitchell's powerful performance of "Wheels of A Dream" from Ragtime. The love continued with Rosie Perez's short speech, wherein she boldly proclaimed that "we can't let hate win." It poured forth when female comics Michelle Collins, Judy Gold, and Caroline Rhea took to the stage, respectively, to deliver sets intent on making us laugh away our woes instead of focusing on them. It happened when Chita Rivera, in all her legendary glory, sang "America" from West Side Story.
Concert For America reminded me that I chose rightly in which Inauguration Day events I wanted to a part of. This concert impressed upon me the urgency to stay true to my politics, my self, and my dreams for this nation. The concert also reminded me that the healing and unifying power of the arts is now more important than ever.