Broadway and television star Michael Arden hopes to shine the spotlight on a few furry, four-legged friends when he returns to the stage of New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below this weekend.
On Nov. 1, the actor-singer, 33, will join a starry lineup that includes Sutton Foster, Robert Fairchild and Lesli Margherita for “Best in Shows,” a cabaret evening to benefit the Humane Society of New York. Fittingly, Broadway’s original “Annie,” Andrea McArdle, and animal trainer Bill Berloni, who taught the very first Sandy (and countless other stage pets) his tricks, will also be on hand at the event.
“As someone who lives with an animal, I think it’s important to learn how to responsibly care for souls who don’t have their own voice,” Arden, who shares his home with a cat, Eloise, told The Huffington Post. “They can’t advocate for themselves.”
At the event, legendary “Cabaret” star Joel Grey will be honored with the Humane Society of New York’s “Sandy” award for his devotion to animal rights. It’ll be a special moment for Arden, who has admired Grey’s work for years, too.
“I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and now his advocacy for animals is something to aspire to,” Arden said. “As someone with a voice as wonderful as his is, it’s great that he’s leant it to such a wonderful cause.”
2015 has been a particularly busy year for the star. As his stint as a series regular on FX’s “Anger Management” was wrapping last year, he moved behind the scenes, helming the Deaf West production of the musical “Spring Awakening” at the Rosenthal Theatre in Los Angeles. That production, which is performed simultaneously in English and American Sign Language (ASL), opened on Broadway this fall to great acclaim. Actor-singer Andy Mientus, who is Arden’s fiancé, is one of the show’s stars.
“At its core, ‘Spring Awakening’ is about the perils of miscommunication, and what happens when people are denied a voice,” he said. The show’s move to Broadway came as a complete surprise: “Doing it in a 99-seat theater in Los Angeles is all I ever dreamed of. But hopefully it will get people interested in…different forms of communication.”
The veteran Broadway star, who owns a home in Los Angeles but jokes about being “bicoastal curious,” found another reason to return to the East Coast, as the star of the stage version of Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” which played the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey this spring.
“I feel like I’ve spoiled [by the role]. It really stretched me emotionally and physically, and the challenges it posed were difficult, exciting and rewarding as an actor,” he said. Although he praises the “wonderful company and creative team” and is anxious for the show's forthcoming cast album, he doesn’t see himself reprising the role of Quasimodo in any future incarnations. “I think I’m good. My days in the bell tower are over. I’m going for more of a ground floor apartment now.”
Hosted by Seth Rudetsky, “Best In Shows” plays Feinstein's/54 Below in New York on Nov. 1. Head here for more details.
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