When a Broadway singer and dancer is in the spotlight, you can pretty much expect some high-quality performances. And that’s just what the attendees at the annual Marfan Foundation’s Heartworks Gala got Tuesday night when Tony Award-winner Ann Reinking received the Karen Murray Inspiration of Excellence Award for her many years of activism and philanthropy on behalf of the organization.
To honor Reinking, Joel Gray performed “Willkommen” from “Cabaret,” followed by Bebe Neuwirth, James Naughton and Chita Rivera, who all performed as well. Rivera’s rendition of “All That Jazz” from “Chicago” was especially rousing.
Reinking’s heartfelt speech about the trials and tribulations of having a child with Marfan, a potentially fatal connective tissue disorder, brought many in the room to tears. Her son, Chris, was diagnosed with the disease as a child. Ditto for Murray’s son Michael.
Murray, now chief executive officer of Sequential Brands Group and chair of the Foundation’s board, started the fund-raising and public awareness effort over 20 years ago in a small Seventh Avenue showroom.
This year, nearly 500 people filled the newly converted event space at the Ziegfeld Ballroom to honor Reinking, along with Dr. Reed Pyeritz of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Gil Bashe, managing partner of global health for Finn Partners, who received Hero with a Heart Awards.
Martha Stewart was on hand to introduce Murray whom she called “passionate, concerned and committed” to raise awareness to the cause.
The event, which also featured a live auction, raised $1.2 million for the organization.
In all, some 200,000 people in the U.S. have Marfan or a related disorder, which is often not diagnosed until it is too late. The Marfan Foundation supports research and also serves as a resource for families and health-care providers.