Supporters of the pulmonary fibrosis (PF) community and Broadway stars came together for the PF Foundation (PFF)’s sixth annual “Broadway Belts for PFF!” fundraising event, which raised $180,000. All proceeds will go to a Foundation fund to support idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis research, education and advocacy .
The late February event was held at New York’s Edison Ballroom, with the actress and PF Foundation advocate, Julie Halston, serving as host. Halston and her husband, Ralph Howard, founded the event in 2011 after a close friend, the theater critic Michael Kuchwara, died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Howard has since been diagnosed with PF and underwent a lung transplant.
“Everyone needs to know about the unparalleled work done by the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation so that they, too, can help eradicate this terrible disease by getting involved,” said Halston in a press release. “When my husband and I started this benefit to remember our friend Michael, we knew that partnering with the PFF to spread awareness and raise funds would bring us closer to a cure. Broadway Belts for PFF! has raised approximately $700,000 since we began. That’s extraordinary, but unfortunately, there remains a lot more work to do.”
The evening’s cabaret-inspired show, directed by Christopher McGovern and Carl Andress, included stars from a variety of Broadway offerings: Telly Leung (Allegiance), Robert Creighton (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Lisa Howard (It Should Have Been You), Margo Seibert (Rocky), Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Once Upon a Mattress), and Zakiya Young (Disgraced). And it showcased a number of notable performers — the Grammy Award-winning Daveed Diggs (Hamilton), and the Tony Award winners Randy Graff, Cady Huffman, and Judy Kaye (City of Angels, The Producers, and Phantom of the Opera, respectively) .
Diggs debuted a rap song he wrote specially for the fundraiser. In the song, “Breathe,” he captures the hardships of living with PF, and the feeling of needing to truly conserve one’s air, singing “at times it feels dangerous to use my voice.”
“We are incredibly grateful to our dear friends and producers Julie Halston, D. Michael Dvorchak, Ed Windels, Sue Frost, and Carl Andress for the magic they weave into making this extraordinary event come alive,” PFF’s president and CEO, Patti Tuomey, said. “Broadway Belts for PFF! always features people with such amazing talent who care deeply about helping others, which means a great deal to the pulmonary fibrosis community.”
Theater stars who donated their time and talent to previous “Broadway Belts” fundraisers include Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Linda Lavin, Darlene Love, Tony Danza, and Andrew Rannells.
Photo credit: Mike Sheehan