Bette Midler, Martin Short, Eric Idle, Jason Alexander, Christina Applegate, Anthony Mackie and William Shatner were among the stars who joined Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Tuesday.
The A-listers showed up for a reading of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to benefit The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, an organization which Hanks and Wilson have been supporters of for 25 years.
“A world-class city deserves a world-class Shakespeare company,” Hanks told The Hollywood Reporter about the center, which provides free performances of the Bard’s work around town. “The challenge is getting people in the seats. L.A. is a big, spread-out place, but all I have to do is get 20 people into the theater each performance who have never been to the theater before, and they’ll be locked in to come back again and again.”
The show, titled Simply Shakespeare, included a soundtrack from the divine diva herself, Bette Midler, who opened the show with â€œIâ€™m Dreaming of a White Christmas,â€ was joined by Mackie for a duet of “Silent Night” and also sang her legendary hits “The Rose” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Short had the audience laughing with his antics and several changes of costume, including a Santa Claus outfit and a jesterâ€™s hat, as well as hysterical impromptu ad-libs from the cast, who took turns hamming it up for the audience.
“It’s sort of like color war at camp,” said Alexander of the event, which was chaired by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Ron Meyer. “It’s not well-rehearsed and the campers love it!” Added “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” star Glenn Howerton, who played Sebastian in the performance: “It’s like trying to wrangle pre-school kids.”
Now that the show is over, Hanks is ready to turn his attention to another stage, namely, the Oscars. “It’s the playoffs,” said the actor, who starred in awards contender Bridge of Spies this year. “All I know is that all the marketing teams and publicists are already gearing up to throw those elbow around, seeing what’s going to happen. It’s out of my hands now.”