The Tony-winning star of “Gypsy” and “She Loves Me” posted a short video on social media platforms last week urging students who have been rehearsing for their school musicals this spring to deliver their musical numbers online.
Acknowledging that musical theater can be a “lifesaver” for many students, Benanti asked participants to tag her in their performance videos using the hashtag #SunshineSongs.
“I wanna see you,” she said. “I wanna hear it. Stay safe everybody!”
Hours later, Benanti’s effort caught the eye of “Hamilton” composer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who vowed to join her in watching the videos.
Needless to say, students from across the country were quick to respond to Benanti’s callout, offering their performances of “Anything Goes,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Annie,” among other musicals.
Others got even more creative with their contributions. One youngster’s take on “Start of Something New,” originally performed by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in Disney’s “High School Musical,” had been viewed more than 11,000 times as of Monday afternoon.
On Sunday, Benanti praised students for their “heart, truth and commitment” on Instagram.
“You’re bringing so much joy to so many people who need it,” she wrote. “My family and I have watched all of the performances ― every single one ― multiple times. We’re in love with you!”
Collectively, the #SunshineSongs videos provided a celebratory outlet for participating students as well as for musical fans grappling with the closure of Broadway and regional theaters across the country.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a one-month ban on gatherings of 500 people or more to ward off the spread of coronavirus. The news came after an usher who worked performances of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Six” on Broadway tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, all current Broadway productions ― from hits like “Wicked” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to the hotly anticipated musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire” ― will be closed through at least April 13.
Similarly, at least 35 U.S. states have ordered all of their K-12 public schools to close in response to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 6,500 people worldwide.