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It’s not unusual to see long lines of customers snaking out the door at Schmackary’s Cookies, the “official cookie of Broadway.” But for one week in May, the smiling faces serving the New York City bakery’s confectionary delights were not your regular bakers.
More than 30 Broadway stars stepped behind the counter to join in Schmackary’s second Broadway Bakes fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS.
“What could be more fun than selling the most delicious cookies to people who share the same passions as me: tasty desserts, theatre and Broadway Cares?” said Tony Award winner Laura Benanti. “It’s so invigorating to stand side-by-side with the best performers in New York in support of an organization I’ve been involved with for many years.”
The celebrities stopped by the popular theatre district cookie shop to work two-hour shifts. Half of the sales and all of the tips generated during the shifts were donated to Broadway Cares.
In its first year, Broadway Bakes raised $8,625 for BC/EFA. This year, the grand total nearly doubled that, reaching an impressive $16,051.
Zachary Schmahl, owner, creator and cookie master of Schmackary’s, said the Broadway community has supported the shop since he opened more than two years ago.
“Every step of the way the backing of the theatre community has helped our little cookie company grow into a huge success story,” Schmahl said. “So when it came time to give back, Schmackary’s wanted to assist the Broadway community in any way possible. Broadway Bakes was born and the stars have come out twice now to help us give back and support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.”
BC/EFA Executive Director Tom Viola said: “We are consistently touched by the depth of support from our friends throughout the community, especially those who seek out new and uniquely original opportunities to help us help the most vulnerable among us. And, besides, who can pass up a Schmackary’s cookie?”
Tony nominee Brian J. Smith, who shared a shift with fellow nominee and soon-to-be Tony Award winner Lena Hall, said: “Three of my favorite things in one day: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, cookies and Lena Hall. I had a blast and it was an honor to be involved.”
Two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber, currently starring in Matilda the Musical, said Schmahl’s relationship with the theatre community was key to the growth of Broadway Bakes. “I’ve known Zachary since he was baking treats for friends in his apartment,” Sieber said. “As his business grew, he quickly became a theatre district institution and he’s never taken for granted how this community has helped him. His commitment to Broadway Bakes and Broadway Cares shows that.”
The Broadway performers participating this year represented Aladdin, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Glass Menagerie, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Les Misérables, Matilda the Musical, Newsies, Pippin, Rocky and Violet, as well as the cast of the hit internet series Submissions Only. Some of the biggest names on Broadway, including 2014 Tony nominees Sarah Greene, Lena Hall, Joshua Henry, Anika Larsen, Audra McDonald, Brian J. Smith and Jarrod Spector were among those who joined in the effort.
“The Schmackary’s customers brought me back to my bartending days – just with more smiles and less desperation,” Spector said after a Friday evening shift with Larsen, one of his Beautiful co-stars. “Seriously though, I’m proud to be able to help in any small way that I can.”
For Schmahl, it’s a dream come true. “I’m just in awe of the incredible names in the Broadway community not just showing up for a picture, but actually working behind our counter and having a great time doing it,” he said. “Who knew giving back could be so much fun?”
Photos by Kevin Thomas Garcia