It didn’t take long for the tweet to attract attention, with Benanti saying the video had close to 50,000 views on Twitter moments after she posted it. And in just four days, the hashtag has turned into what Benanti calls “the world’s biggest musical.” Among its stars: Union High School senior Khadija Sankoh singing “Waiting For Life” from Once On This Island, college student Cathy Ritter sharing the original score she produced for DeSales University’s staging of The Jungle Book, and a live-streamed elementary school production of Annie that performed to an empty audience.
And that’s just a sampling of the thousands of videos Benanti has spent the last few days watching, sharing, liking, and commenting on with her husband and daughter while laying low at home. Artists across different mediums have also started tagging her, and the clips have become ever more elaborate; for example, one young boy’s home video featured a scene change complete with props: “I’m loving the creativity and the heart, because it’s preventing me from spending my entire day glued to the 24-hour news cycle and constantly freaking out.”
Other Broadway vets like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt, Michael Urie, and Stephanie J. Block have even gotten in on Benanti’s fun, connecting with the young artists and sharing words of encouragement in the face of such devastating creative setbacks. “I know it sounds cheesy, but theater really is like a family, and a theater family knows how to welcome new members,” Benanti said. “I think we’re really seeing that in the support and love that these stars are showing these kids, and I really hope that it is a bit of a salve for their disappointment, to know that some of their heroes think they’re amazing.”
While Benanti says she has been contacted about expanding the hashtag into some sort of musical competition or contest or sorts, she’s happier to let it flourish as is. “I don’t wanna commodify it or turn it into an award show or anything like that. I just wanna keep giving a platform to these kids,” she explains. “Like all things viral, I know they ebb and flow, but I want the kids out there to know that I’ll continue watching, and that a lot of people will. We’re gonna be inside for quite some time, so we definitely have time on our hands!”