Some 48 eight tables filled El Rey Theatre on Thursday night for an evening of celebrity sing-alongs aptly titled Playlist With The A-List. The purpose: raising money and awareness for UNICEF’s Schools For Africa initiative. Last year, the event raised over $75,000 to help build a school in Malawi. An hour into last night’s affair, they had already surpassed the $85,000 mark, this time earmarking the funds for a school in Ethiopia.The tally eventually reached $400,000 as handheld bidpals made it easy to donate cash, purchase “inspired gifts” or “pay to play” during the Schools For Africa auction. The smartphone-like device created a high-tech, interactive element for the night, and allowed guests to bid and buy without interrupting the show.
Hosted by Dancing With the Stars’ Tom Bergeron and featuring music by Rickey Minor and The Tonight Show Band, who served up hit after hit and kept the energy up all night, the evening began with Christina Zilber and Desiree Gruber highlighting the “power of song to change the world.” And with that, they were off to karaoke for a cause.
Molly Sims kicked off the night with a confession, “I cannot stand Wayne Brady!” Luckily, the glowing-mom-to-be was only joking about her disdain for the tardy-for-the-party opener, and took her best shot at Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach.” Fortuanately, the not-so-stellar singer had the help of a back-up singer, who not only helped Simms hit those high notes, but kissed her belly at the end of the number.
Rita Wilson did such an amazing job that Rickey Minor forced her to sing an encore of “Come See About Me” by The Supremes. Husband Tom Hanks was on deck to lend his support, which he did by jumping to his feet and dancing to his wife’s surprisingly smooth voice. John Huertas and Seamus Dever of ABC’s hit show Castle paid tribute to Nate Dogg on the one-year anniversary of his death, with their rendition of his and Warren G’s 90’s classic, “Regulate.” Who knew these funny-men could sing and rap?
After running a bit behind schedule, Wayne Brady redeemed himself with his version ofStevie Wonder’s “Uptight.” Alcatraz starlet Parminder Nagra joined American Dad’s, Scott Grimes for an impressive performance of “Walkin’ In Memphis” during which Grimes hit the piano and Nagra debuted her impressive vocal abilities.
UNICEF Ambassador and basketball star Pau Gasol celebrated the end of the trading drama, and his renewed contract with the Lakers, by singing The Fray’s “How To Save a Life.” The seven-foot-tall forward did his best and sang all the way through, but while he gets an A for effort and commitment, his pitch was more like a C. Looking ginormous on the landmark theater's stage, Gasol humbly bowed at the end of his performance and said "thank you."
But the highlight of the night had to be Heidi Klum, who, instead of singing “My Girl” with Smokey Robinson as planned, opted to hit the dance floor and lead the room in The Village People’s “YMCA.” She even solicited the help of famous friends like Hanks and Wilson, whom she hunted down in the audience. Her performance didn’t include all that much singing, but was by far the most entertaining turn of the evening. “If you don’t know the words you just dance!” Klum screamed. The newly single supermodel showed zero sign of heartache and was in great spirits all night.
Other standout moments included Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man co-stars and JB Smoove and Regina Hall singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” then segueing into an impromptu James Brown-inspired dance to “Get On Up,” House Of Lies stars Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle, who sang “Easy Lover,” and James Denton, who was joined by former Desperate Housewives co-stars Kyle MacLachlan and Doug Savant for their version of 1980s hit “What I Like About You” and finished off their set with “R.O.C.K. In The USA.”