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A Night at Sardi’s Benefit

[IMG:L]Broadway came to Beverly Hills on March 7 when stars of television and film performed songs from the classic musical Guys and Dolls at the Alzheimer’s Association’s 15th annual Night at Sardi’s benefit at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, an event that raised $1.2 million for the cause.

After an awards ceremony honoring supporters–including Peter Gallagher, who lost his mother to Alzheimer’s in 2004–Eric McCormack kicked off the show with “Luck Be A Lady.” Later, his former Will & Grace colleague Megan Mullally deliciously demonstrated how “a person could develop a cold” in “Adelaide’s Lament.” Sharon Lawrence nailed “Take Back Your Mink,” and Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) and Jean Louisa Kelly (Yes, Dear) deftly handled the comic duet “Sue Me.”

“One of the great things about celebrity is we’re in the position to help causes like this that are so worthy. If you don’t give back with your time, shame on you,” said Michael Chiklis (The Shield), who attended with his daughter (and co-star) Autumn. “Especially with the Baby Boomers coming into their golden years, this is a problem that’s only going to get worse unless we make it better. Whether or not, God forbid, it’s ever a problem for me personally, that’s really not the point.”

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[IMG:R]No stranger to Guys and Dolls—“I played Big Jule in 8th grade” —he jumped at the chance to sing “Fugue for Tinhorns” with Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Dick Van Dyke, who did double duty in his first Night at Sardi’s appearance.

“They asked me to sing ‘More I Cannot Wish You,’ and I said I’ll come if I can do ‘Fugue for Tinhorns,’” explained Van Dyke, busy as ever at 81, with another installment of Murder 101 planned and a possible sequel to his holiday hit Night at the Museum. “My retirement is shot,” he quipped, turning serious with talk of the reason for the evening. “People are getting Alzheimer’s younger and younger. We’ve got to find a cure.”

Jason Alexander didn’t need to rehearse to sing “Adelaide,” since he’d played Nathan Detroit before. “You can’t go to high school without being in Guys and Dolls,” said the Seinfeld alumnus. Like most of the participants, Alexander knows people who have dealt with Alzheimer’s in their families even if it hasn’t yet occurred in their own. “Not only is it devastating for the person going through it, but the families just suffer so,” he said.

[IMG:L]Victor Garber, whose mother died from Alzheimer’s, marked his fourth appearance at Night at Sardi’s with a duet of “I’ll Know” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” with Joely Fisher. Garber and Fisher rehearsed that afternoon for the first time, Fisher said as she walked the red carpet in a floaty Tadashi dress, Martin Katz diamonds and glittery makeup on her eyes and décolletage. “I’m a diva—I’m going to be on stage and I want to pop!” explained the Til Death star and mother of two daughters. She confided that her stepchildren lost their grandfather to Alzheimer’s. “It’s so bewildering and so scary,” she said.

Ken Howard, whose father died from Alzheimer’s 12 years ago and who recently starred in the Hallmark Channel movie Sacrifices of the Heart as an Alzheimer’s victim, has lent his voice to A Night at Sardi’s almost every year and was quite familiar with Guys and Dolls. “Almost 40 years ago I played Sky Masterson at a summer theater,” revealed the veteran actor, who’d just returned from filming John Rambo with Sylvester Stallone, who’s also directing, in Thailand. “My body is in some other time zone,” he confided.

Howard teamed up on “The Oldest Established” with Rescue Me firemen Steven Pasquale and Daniel Sunjata, who’d flown in from New York for the event. “There’s not enough awareness about it so we wanted to contribute,” said Pasquale. “I’m going to hide my horrible singing behind his mellifluous voice,” joked Sunjata, who can indeed carry a tune, but who left soon after his performance to catch a red eye flight back to the Rescue Me set, where episode three was in production. “You shouldn’t get too attached to any of the series regulars, except Tommy [Denis Leary]. That’s all we’ll say,” he said when pressed for scoop. “But I hope we stick around.”

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[IMG:R]“My mother always said to me, ‘Never volunteer for anything. No good deed goes unpunished.’ Sorry, Ma!” said Peter Gallagher, who sang in the very first Night At Sardi’s 15 years ago, when he was appearing in a revival of Guys and Dolls’ on Broadway and Laurie Burrows Grad, daughter of the musical’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted librettist Abe Burrows, asked him to participate. He’s done so ever since and will “until Alzheimer’s disease is a memory.” Reading scripts since The O.C.’s end, he’s looking for another series and wouldn’t mind a sitcom. “Those are the greatest hours in show business,” he explained.

Tracie Thoms, out of covered up Cold Case cop clothes in a flirty Leona Edmiston dress and Jimmy Choo shoes, recalled people she lost to Alzheimer’s including an aunt and her childhood babysitter’s grandmother. “I saw this beautiful, funny woman turn into a shell of a person,” said Thoms, who did a soulful take on “If I Were a Bell” despite forgetting some of the lyrics.

[IMG:L]Sam Harris (The Class) hit a home run with the showstopper “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” which he’d recorded for an album of show tunes. “I already had an arrangement,” he noted. Also on hand were presenter William Shatner and actress-director-screenwriter Sarah Polley, whose film Away From Her focuses on a married couple affected by Alzheimer’s. She coaxed Julie Christie out of retirement to take the lead in the film, which also stars Gordon Pinsent and Olympia Dukakis. “I hope it gets people talking,” she said. It opens in theaters May 4.

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