Alec Baldwin's Dystopian Trump Vision Opens Theater Fundraiserby
Baldwin praises Hillary Clinton to applause at Roundabout gala
Donors Tom Tuft, Scott Bok mingle with stars Krakowski, Mirren
Alec Baldwin, in the ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria on the eve of Super Tuesday, practiced an anything-but-standard stump speech.
"The Roundabout Theatre has been purchased by Donald Trump," Baldwin said during a sound check for the nonprofit company’s annual benefit, as waiters straightened forks at empty seats. "We set out to raise $50 million, we only raised $32 million, and Trump stepped in with the missing $18 million. So it’s the Trump Roundabout Theatre."
Call it a joke, a dream or a nightmare, some of it was based on fact: the Roundabout is nearly $32 million into a $50 million campaign to ensure its future, thanks to donors including Lazard’s Tom Tuft and Greenhill & Co.’s Scott Bok. The point being, it would only take $18 million to stop Trump, in this instance.
What could not be stopped as the evening unfolded were Trump references. Nathan Lane invoked the Republican candidate to describe how much the Roundabout has grown in 50 years. It started in a black box theater in the basement of a supermarket in Chelsea, and now includes five theaters on and off Broadway, including its flagship American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street. "The Roundabout has become the Donald Trump of non-for-profit theater," Lane said.
When Baldwin came up to the stage for the second time, with more than 700 guests seated, the famously liberal actor didn’t use the fake-news bit and instead remarked on the 2016 race. He called the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, "one of the most admired figures in the country." The room filled with applause. The mention of Trump, "who operates casinos, golf courses and a skating rink in Central Park," said Baldwin, brought scattered boos.
Though Baldwin has flirted with public office, his remarks suggested a diminishing appetite for politics. "The arts are all that matter today, in my mind and in my heart," said Baldwin, a board member of the Roundabout. "The weirder and more inexplicable this world gets, the more invaluable arts become."
Envisioning a Trump presidency in which government support for the arts flourishes was not what came next. "If Trump wins it all and decides he wants to buy the American Airlines Theatre, tear it down and build a casino there, you know who will be there to stop it: all of us here."
The gala raised more than $3.8 million, including more than $250,000 in donations during a live auction. The privilege of Jane Krakowski performing in your home with dinner prepared by Markus Glocker of Batard went to two separate bidders for $50,000 each. A walk-on part in "Holiday Inn," a new show with music by Irving Berlin set to open in October, went for $15,000.
Krakowski also delivered one of the more memorable musical moments of the evening when she unfolded herself from aerial silks, singing "Who’s not wearing any clothes? I’m not, my darling. Who’s afraid to kiss your toes? I’m not." That would be a number from "Nine," for which she won a Tony Award in a 2003 Roundabout production.
Less scandalous: Laura Benanti singing about ice cream, from "She Loves Me," the musical currently in revival at Studio 54.
Audra McDonald was honored with a tribute from Phylicia Rashad and a queen’s bow from Helen Mirren.
Liam Neeson was on hand to honor Tuft, the Roundabout’s chairman. Tuft’s path there started with seeing "The Music Man" as a kid and having Stephen Sondheim as a passenger when he drove a taxi cab. As for raising $50 million: "It is very important we have the financial wherewithal to survive the difficult years as well as to be able to prosper during the good years," Tuft said.