The COVID-19 pandemic may have thrown the traditional Passover gathering out the window this year, but Jewish (and a few non-Jewish) celebrities improvised a way to both celebrate and isolate. Actors, singers, musicians, rabbis and other notables participated in “Saturday Night Seder,” which streamed live on YouTube, and on the website. Performing songs and comedy bits, telling personal stories, and sending messages of hope, the hour-long program raised money for the CDC Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund.
After Jason Alexander kicked things off with “Dayenu,” Pamela Adlon and Julie Klausner talked about Hebrew school and childhood seders, and Fran Drescher demonstrated proper urchatz—hand washing—technique as she sang the theme to “The Nanny.” (she was better at the former than the latter.) For Broadway-caliber singing, there was Ben Platt, who performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as Judith Light talked about Passover’s theme of freedom, and Idina Menzel, who sang The Four Questions with a children’s chorus, following a intro bit from Nick Kroll and Finn Wolfhard.
There were a few running bits, including Ilana and Eliot Glazer on drinking wine, Debra Messing and Richard Kind telling the Exodus story. Dan Levy improvised a seder plate with the help of chef Michael Solomonov; Beanie Feldstein got packing tips for wandering in the desert from “Queer Eye’s” Tan France; and Andy Cohen introduced an afikomen-search game that directed viewers to the CDC’s contributions page. Joshua Malina also urged donations, declaring “Give some tzedakah, mother___!”
Other appearances included Henry Winkler, Mayim Bialik, Judy Gold, D’Arcy Carden, Jimmy Wolk, Michael Zegen, Isaac Mizrahi, Sarah Silverman, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Los Angeles Rabbis David Wolpe and Sharon Brous, and Rabbi Dana Benson, many of whom voiced where they want to be at Pesach 2021 as Skylar Astin sang “Next Year.”
Non-Jews Darren Criss and Josh Groban (both of whom said they “played Tevye in high school”) and Rachel Brosnahan took part, as did Cynthia Erivo, singing “When You Believe” (with piano accompaniment by its composer, Stephen Schwartz) and Billy Porter, performing “Let My People Go.”
Harvey Fierstein delivered a funny, poignant monologue on the meaning of ‘Next Year in Jerusalem,’ and there was a surprise appearance by none other than Bette Midler as Elijah.
The program was dedicated to musician and songwriter Adam Schlesinger, who died of COVID-19, and all those who are fighting the coronavirus.