Debbie Gravitte and Broadway stars light up the Ridgefield Playhouse stage with virtual concert

While the lights of Broadway remain dark, the curtain will rise for a “Toast to Broadway — A Virtual Concert” as part of the Ridgefield Playhouse’s Broadway and Cabaret series. The pre-recorded show will be screened Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. with tickets sold for in-person viewing as well as streaming.

Whether audiences join in at the Playhouse with a complimentary glass of bubbly, or watch at home in their pajamas, the show will be a toast to live theater. Led and produced by Tony Award-winning singer Debbie Gravitte and her production company, group5productions, the show will feature about 20 performers. Among them are Jarrod Spector, Tony Award nominee Ann Hampton Callaway, Morgan James, noted composer Stephen Schwartz, Seth Rudetsky, Sam Gravitte, Alli Mauzey, Dee Roscioli. Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein will also make a special appearance.

“It’s the most fabulous people singing great songs,” Gravitte said. “Sometimes they’re just singing to you, other times there’s a big dance number. There’s lots of fun stuff ... and some little surprises along the way.”

Tapping into the wealth of Broadway people who live in the area, Gravitte put together the show for the Playhouse by going into her network of fellow entertainers who are all missing live performances and were happy to share their talents. “I am most looking forward to the fact that people in our area will get to experience a little of what we are all missing, which is the lights of Broadway and all these incredible performers who really don’t have an outlet except for this right now and you get to stay in your jammies and watch them.”

The performers each taped one song in their home studio or outdoors. “Every performer in this day and age has learned to create their own little recording studio at home, we all have lights and a microphone. … That’s why the show uniformly doesn’t all look the same way but I also think it makes it look more interesting,” she said.

Moving to Ridgefield from L.A. over 20 years ago, Gravitte experienced major culture shock but quickly became involved with the Playhouse. She ended up performing in the Playhouse’s first gala along with friends Schwartz and composer Alan Menken. “I don’t even think we were sold out because people didn’t really know about it yet,” she said. “The Playhouse has become a phenomenon in terms of what they do and what they have accomplished.”

One of the performers in the virtual concert, who shares her name but has earned his own place in the Broadway world, is her son, Sam Gravitte, who was cast last year as Fiyero’s understudy in “Wicked” on Broadway and in February, took over the main role before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the theaters.

“I did have two and a half weeks of performing Fiyero on Broadway under my belt when the great shutdown happened,” he said. “I’m grateful to have had the few weeks I did and I’m also super grateful that ‘Wicked’ is a show that will be back as soon as theaters are allowed to reopen.”

With both parents involved in the theater and arts, and even his siblings, he said he knew early on he wanted to join the “family business.” “I grew up with two parents who I thought had the coolest jobs ever, I grew up in Ridgefield where a lot of people’s parents would commute into New York to work and my mom was flying into Moscow to sing with the symphony and I was like ‘That seems really cool,’ ” he said. “I can’t remember ever wanting to do something else.”

For his part in the virtual concert, he sings “Live In Living Color” from the musical “Catch Me If You Can,” acknowledging the irony of pre-recording a song with “Live” in the title. He said recording was fun for him as he was in upstate New York near Lake Placid with friends from his undergraduate days who are not artists. “I kind of made them follow me around for a day and shoot different clips, which was a lot of fun and they were like ‘What are we doing?’ and I said, ‘We’re being artistic.’”

He said he enjoyed doing his part of the show and said he is so grateful that people continue to support the arts. “We can put a song on tape and put together something virtually as a reminder of how much we love what we do in person and how excited we all are to be able to sing songs and share stories in front of live humans as soon as we can.”

For more information about Toast to Broadway, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

Andrea Valluzzo is a freelancer writer.