By Victoria L. Dammer
On April 4, the red carpet at The Edison Ballroom was sizzling hot with excitement as Theatre Forward’s 2022 Gala honoring Tony and Obie Award-winning director, producer, and actor Kenny Leon, and Prudential Financial for their leadership and support in the arts and the theater community.
Leon recently directed Lifetime’s Emmy-nominated Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia. Last year, he directed the Tony Award-winning Broadway premiere of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story A Soldier’s Play, which he received a nomination for Best Director.
In 2021, Prudential Financial teamed with Playbill, The Broadway League and Time Square Alliance to sponsor Curtain Up, which celebrates the return of Broadway in NYC. Prudential also donated to Black Theatre Coalition and The Actors Fund.
Gala chairs for the evening were Audra McDonald and Richard K. Greene, CITI.
Emcee Shereen Pimentel, who is currently starring in the Broadway revival of West Side Story, was bedazzling in a form-fitting long white gown, her long silky tresses free flowing on her shoulders. When asked what she was looking forward to for the evening, she said, “I am looking forward to all the performances tonight.”
She also stressed how important it was to come out and support Theatre Forward and the institutions they support.
Honoree Kenny Leon posed with Pimental, decked out in a deep navy blue velvet jacket with a black satin lapel. He was jovial and talkative with the crowd. When Leon was asked what he felt was his greatest accomplishment so far, he replied, “I’m still a story teller who impacts lives and it’s great to be in the room with this army, these soldiers who are still taking our stories to the communities.”
He also gave words of advice for people who were breaking into the industry. “Just do it. Don’t wait on anybody. Write your story.”
Claybourne Elder, currently starring in the Broadway revival of Company, was handsomely dressed in a black tux and bowtie, looking as gorgeous in person as he does on stage. He was appearing at the Gala as a special guest, and when asked what he was looking forward to, he replied, “ This is my first in-person gala for a long time so I’m just excited to be here.”
He was also asked for advice for up-and-coming performers and he said, “ There are going to be ups and downs. Just live somewhere in the middle.”
James Haskins, Colette Laisure, Tim Shields and Meghan Pressman, members of the Regional Theatre Board also appeared, thrilled to be on the red carpet.
Stunning can describe Broadway performer Brittney Johnson, currently starring in Wicked, who posed with PRU honoree Susan Somersille Johnson, both wearing incredible blue gowns and smiles to light up any room.
Although Kristin Chenoweth was not on the red carpet, we heard a buzz from the crowd attendees could expect an extraordinary performance from the well-known star.
Just like any red carpet event, the time spent speaking with the stars was short, but what an enjoyable night visiting with theater’s bright stars was had by all.