Presented by Patricia Watt, the Producer of the Astaire Awards and The Douglas Watt Family Fund for the Performing Arts, as well as The Fred Astaire International Dance Studios, the event began with a VIP cocktail reception followed by the show and awards presentation. For the first time, the awards were live-streamed across the United States.
The ceremony began with a performance of “New York, New York” from the three-time Astaire Award nominated musical On The Town. Proceeding, actress and impressionist Christina Bianco channeled Kristen Chenowith and Bernadette Peters in a rousing duet of sorts to “Shall We Dance.” She brought some of her other impersonations into the performance including Barbara Streisand, Julie Andrews, Liza Minelli, Sutton Foster and Patti Lupone. Following that performance, Astaire Awards Executive Producer Patricia Watt and Director Joe Lanteri took the stage to welcome the crowd to the awards ceremony.
She thanked the audience for coming and listed a few names in particular including nominee Warren Carlyle saying, “If everyone were like Warren Carlyle, the world would be a better place.” She then shared that part of the proceeds from the event benefit The Douglas Watt Foundation, and brought Executive Director of the foundation Jessica Zippin to share more about its mission.
The foundation works with children, usually on the autism spectrum, to help develop social skills and communication through dance. “For children who are nonverbal, it’s important to learn to communicate through their bodies”
She commended him for his commitment to dance in his movies despite not being “a guy who started at the ballet bar.”
“There’s a reason why Harvey Weinstein is thanked more than God,” she said adding that it is because, “He believes in us, he believes in artists.”
Proceeding her introduction, performers Jonathan Ritter and Astaire Award Nominee Melanie Moore took to the stage to perform a rendition of “Neverland” from the musical Finding Neverland, which he produces. This was then followed by a video tribute of dance sequences from his movies including Shakespeare in Love and Pulp Fiction.
Finding Neverland choreographer and Astaire Awards nominee Mia Michaels presented the award to Weinstein. “Not only was he the father of Finding Neverland,” she said, “he was my teacher and my bad ass big brother.”
“[Harvey] You make the world and the arts a better place,” she shared before welcoming Weinstein to the stage,
Harvey Weinstein opened up his speech by stating, “I am not leader of Finding Neverland, that’s Diane Paulus. I’m just the bad ass big brother.”
He pointed out that Finding Neverland was not nominated for any Tony Awards, yet still makes $1 million per week. He stressed, “We need new voices on Broadway. We need new guys like me on Broadway.”