Broadway Stars Come Together For All-Star Single 'With a Little Help From My Friends' to Support the Arts
A group of Broadway's finest -- including two-time Tony-nominated producer Michael J. Moritz Jr., Broadway orchestrator Charlie Rosen, Tony- and Grammy Award-winning producer Van Dean and executive producer Jonathan Estabrooks -- have gathered a galaxy of voices and performers for an all-star single and video to benefit Americans For The Arts. Their stirring gospel-tinged cover of The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" is being released today (March 23), just a week after the National Endowment for the Arts and other arts organizations came under fire in President Trump's proposed budget.
Estabrooks helped gather a massive group of Broadway and Hollywood stars as well as artists from the worlds of dance, music and theater at Avatar Studios in New York and Los Angeles on March 7 to record a cover of the 1967 Beatles hit to rally support for the arts in the wake of news last week that President Trump's budget proposal aims to scrap funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
"The news that this could happen leaked out on January 18 and I thought that it was time to start something and get ahead of the curve, even though I was hoping it wouldn't come to this," Estabrooks tells Billboard as part of this exclusive first look and listen to the song. His first move was to start a Change.org petition pleading for people to stand up to the threat to the NEA and NEH, an effort that has racked up nearly 50,000 supporters at press time, some thanks to retweets from Josh Groban, Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Clinton.
Estabrooks glided off that momentum and started making cold calls and tweeting everyone he could think of to pitch in, resulting in Change.org's North American regional director pledging to share the "Help" video with the site's 180 million worldwide users who've signed petitions related to Trump's budget when it drops today.
Among the participants on the track and video: Annie Golden (Orange Is The New Black), Forte Tenors (America’s Got Talent) and Chris Mann (The Voice); YouTube sensation Peter Hollens; singers Chris Mann (The Voice, Phantom of the Opera), Broadway stars Telly Leung (In Transit, Glee), Lexi Lawson (Hamilton, Rent), Liz Callaway (Cats, Miss Saigon), Ektor Rivera (Q'Viva!, On Your Feet), Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton), Lillias White (Fela!, The Life), Aaron Lazar (The Last Ship, The Light In the Piazza), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast), Carmen Cusack (Bright Star, Les Miserables West End), Nick Adams (Chicago, A Chorus Line), Julie Benko (Fiddler on the Roof), and Ryan Silverman (Side Show, Chicago); Tyce Green (Rockers on Broadway), Cass Dillon, Lauren Jelencovich (Yanni Vocalist), Noah Stewart (Metropolitan Opera), and the Yale Glee Club.
The project, which is using the #Artists4Arts and #Anthem4Arts hashtags (as well as #SaveTheNea and #ArtsAdvocacy), also features spoken word artists Taylor Mali (TedTalk), Trace DePass, Shanelle Gabriel (HBO’s Def Poetry Jam); cabaret stars Natalie Douglas and KT Sullivan, and a pop chorus of 50 accompanied by a full orchestra. The video has footage from the recording session mashed-up with visual art, spoken world, American Sign Language, ballet, hip-hop and cinematic storytelling.
"I was thinking of the right song for something like this and I was immediately drawn to the idea of the arts community and the idea of family and friends because that's what we are as creatives and artists," says Estabrooks. "As much as we are colleagues and friends and the message of the song is powerful, unifying and simple."
Instead of a straight cover, Estabrooks and his team threw everything they had at the recording, adding in a full gospel choir and orchestra, with more than 70 vocalists coming in on March 7 for a marathon 8-hour session that racked up so many individual microphone tracks (446) that it actually crashed their ProTools rig.
The single is available now at Broadway Records ($1.99) and through iTunes and Amazon for purchase with 100% of net proceeds going to Americans For The Arts and their efforts in Arts Advocacy, funding and education and as they fight to protect the National Endowment for the Arts.
"What's blown me away is the idea that if you’re willing to ask, if you're willing to engage and have passion with an idea that you can create a movement and do it for a right cause," Estabrooks adds. "It's important that we're discussing it now because we could lose it... it's a community issue, a bipartisan issue. It's about the arts."
Check out the video: