The Best Moments From the One-Night-Only Return of The Rosie O’Donnell Show

Our host for the evening, the one and only Rosie O’Donnell. Photo: Broadwaycom/YouTube

Well the year is 2020 and there’s a global pandemic trapping us in our apartments in the interest of public health and … The Rosie O’Donnell Show is back. Back, and live from Rosie’s garage–slash–art studio, and via video chat, from the bedrooms, basements, and cabins of theater celebrities everywhere in order to raise money for the Actors Fund. The show went on for over three hours and featured, well, too many people to name but I promise they’re all famous to varying degrees! Here are Vulture’s best moments — in no particular order — from the night if you had something better to do than sit on your couch and watch several hundred minutes worth of a livestream. Though, honestly, what do any of us have to be doing right now other than watching several hundred minutes of a livestream?

Gavin Creel Might Have COVID-19, Definitely Can Still Sing

While so many people talked about the effects of coronavirus in the abstract, Creel called in to announce that, yeah, he’s pretty sure he contracted the virus from a London Waitress castmate who tested positive and retreated to his nicely appointed cabin located somewhere in upstate New York in order to self-isolate. In the midst of it all, Creel’s voice remains miraculously as pristine as ever, and he went on to perform “You Matter to Me” as a gift to us all (to Rosie’s question about whether Sara Bareilles might also have the disease, Creel decidedly did not want to comment). Gavin, please get well soon! We really hope there are other people nearby (at a safe social distance) to check in on you in the cabin.

Patti LuPone’s Basement

Patti performed not one, but two songs in her livestream appearance, just because that’s what Patti decided she wanted to do. Patti also decided to log the heck onto her Twitter account and give a tour of her Connecticut basement, which includes such delights as a giant RCA dog statue, a jukebox, a piano she bought after booking Evita which no longer works, and a pinball machine. We demand the full video home tour at some point, including, of course, the Andrew Lloyd Webber memorial pool.

Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald Sing Same Song, Clearly Need to Zoom Each Other More

Both Broadway heavyweights gave delightful performances of “Smile,” seemingly unaware of the other’s song choice. (You probably know the Nat King Cole version. It’s the one that goes, “smile, though your heart is breaking.”) Or, perhaps, McDonald, who went second, was aware. Or even LuPone, who went first! Who knows! This theory is messy and unverified, and I love that for us in these trying times. In smaller news, later on in the show Randy Rainbow excitedly revealed he was wearing a Barbra Streisand sweatshirt, only to learn Billy Porter had already made an appearance in a Babs tee. Randy? Billy? Are either of you on Poshmark?

Will Swenson Trying His Best

Look when you’re married to Audra Thee McDonald, you know what’s up. Swenson dueted with McDonald on “Smile” and it was all very nice and sweet as he sang and strummed alongside McDonald’s iconic vibrato which is approximately tall enough for an adult woman to stand up inside. Will, we appreciate you.

Alan Menken Absolutely Flexing and Then Casually Announcing a Hercules Stage Run

Menken played a medley of his greatest hits: “Colors of the Wind” from Pocohontas, “Kings of New York” from Newsies, “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, “Go the Distance” Hercules, and Tangled’s “I See the Light.” (There were others but honestly we must stop listing them now because in addition to being anxious about the general state of the world, we’re despairing about the fact that our body of creative work does not include the goddamn iconic theme from Beauty and the Beast.) Menken also mentioned that Hercules, the stage version that graced the Delacorte in Central Park during the summer of 2019, is getting an extended run.

Kelli O’Hara’s Mic Struggles

Throughout the night, O’Donnell, and her co-producer Erich Bergen, ran into some technical difficulties. They’d cut to a celebrity and then you’d get picture but no sound. This happened to one Kelli O’Hara, who popped onto the screen with her kids in silence and proceeded to put her hand up and over the camera repeatedly in an attempt to un-mic her device. The problem ultimately appeared to be on O’Donnell’s end. Mom! 

Adrienne Warren Sitting in Her Bathtub for an Indeterminate Amount of Time

Warren was another one who had some technical difficulties. She first appeared on the livestream sitting in her bathtub— full of water and bubbles, not just like how we’ve taken to using a bathtub as a phone booth because it’s the only place in a studio apartment with a door — ready to sing. Later in the show, once the sound issues were fixed, O’Donnell returned to Warren. Who was … still in the tub. The Tina star performed “Simply the Best,” which, well, it was.

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker Have Been Watching the Occasional Columbo

Despite Rosie’s repeated efforts to get everyone involved to watch The Outsider on HBO, Broderick and Parker insist that they’ve mostly just been hanging out with their kids, cooking, cleaning, and watching just a little Columbo. That sounds nice!

Shoshanna Bean Singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade”

This is fully a Funny Girl revival self-tape from Ms. Bean but we do not hate it.

Kristin Chenoweth Brings Back Taylor the Latte Boy, Shows Off Guitar Guy

Tony winner, high-note aficionado, aspiring TikTok star, Chenoweth brought back “Taylor the Latte Boy” (as previously seen on Rosie!) but also took the opportunity to show off the man with whom she happens to be quarantining, Josh Bryant, a.k.a. the guitar guy. Kat McPhee, the most tech-competent and best-lit celebrity guest, later tweeted out the footage Kristin apparently sent her of Kristin and Josh the guitar guy happily dancing together during McPhee’s performance. Congrats to all involved for locking down quarantine partners in advance of all this.

Tituss Burgess Has Finished Some Sort of New Kimmy Schmidt Thing

The sound in this video cuts out right as Tituss starts describing a project he shot with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock that is (maybe) coming to Netflix in May, but he shot a project with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock that is (maybe) coming to Netflix in May!

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim’s “Happy Birthday” Off

Given that March 22 is of course the double birthday of theater’s favorite two composers, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim had to be both roped into this madness. Sir Andrew, who’s already done a bit of noodling on the piano for the coronavirus era, told Sondheim, “I can’t believe that you’re 90 and I’m 72, I’ve got such a long way to go to catch up to you.” Sondheim, meanwhile, spent the CDC-recommended two verses of “Happy Birthday” singing to Webber. Think of it as tick, tick … FOAM!

The Best Moments From the Return of The Rosie O’Donnell Show