All We Are Saying Is Give Pee a Chance: Hair Herd Sings for Civil Liberties

The cast of Hair is used to getting naked in front of a packed house on a regular basis, but performing at Broadway Stands Up for Freedom, a concert benefiting the youth programs of the New York Civil Liberties Union, at N.Y.U.’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, like, totally freaked them out. “We were talking backstage about how nervous we were,” said ensemble member Paris Remillard. “We’re used to doing our show every night, but this is different. This is special.”

The night began with Pulitzer Prize–winning Tony Kushner thanking the NYCLU for its efforts getting the state to recognize his same-sex marriage to writer and editor Mark Harris. Mr. Kushner had other reasons to be grateful: “This year, thanks to the NYCLU, I can pee during a Yankees game when they’re singing the national anthem without being manhandled and forcibly removed from the stadium,” he said. The audience applauded wildly. (It included Bradford Campeau-Laurion, who was famously ejected from Yankee Stadium in April for trying to go to the bathroom during The Star-Spangled Banner.)

Matt Cavenaugh of West Side Story sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”; Michael Cerveris of Sweeney Todd covered Wilco; and Michael Emerson, who plays that creepy guy Ben on ABC’s Lost, read poetry from the Freedom of Expression contest, for which New York City kids wrote about civil liberties and civil rights issues affecting their lives. Singer-songwriter Liana Stampur had provided original lyrics for the occasion set to the tune of “Send in the Clowns.” (“Ain’t it a bitch?—this Albany feud/ Our senators just mess around and we all get screwed.”)

It was the fourth consecutive year that actor Todd Buonopane, a.k.a. 30 Rock’s Jeffrey Weinerslav, participated. “I love it,” Mr. Buonopane said. “It’s my favorite event all summer—I schedule my whole life around it.”

The night’s emcee and musical director, Seth Rudetsky, leavened the show tunes and pop ballads with Barbara Streisand, A Chorus Line and (episode-specific) Fame jokes. Mingling with the performers after the show, Mr. Rudetsky said the political landscape has changed but the need for the NYCLU remains as strong as ever. “We were doing this when Bush was president and it was all about ‘fight the power,’” he said. “Now Obama’s president and it’s still about fight the power. We still have to push on so many of these issues because they’re not getting addressed.”

Initiatives highlighted by the organization’s executive director, Donna Lieberman, included the “School to Prison Pipeline Project,” addressing police presence in New York City’s schools, and “Project on Military Recruitment and Students’ Rights,” which advocates against aggressive military recruitment. As Mr. Kushner put it: “Thank God for the NYCLU, which keeps us free to speak, free to vote, free to express ourselves and free to pee.”


All We Are Saying Is Give Pee a Chance: Hair Herd Sings for Civil Liberties