'Stars in the House' Recruits Drew Barrymore, Debra Messing and More to Honor Marlo Thomas' 'Free to Be … You and Me'

Drew Barrymore- Audra McDonald- Gloria Steinem-Debra Messing - Getty - Split - H 2020
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Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley have recruited a star-studded lineup for a special episode of their Stars in the House pandemic series inspired by Marlo Thomas and Free to Be … You and Me, her iconic children's entertainment project that she conceived, created and produced.

The special is set for June 26 at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET) when it will stream on the Stars in the House YouTube channel and on the official website. Thomas, who envisioned the work as a way to present anti-racist, anti-sexist entertainment for children, will join Rudetsky and Wesley to talk about the work and its impact.

The program will also feature Sara Bareilles, Harry Belafonte, Drew Barrymore, Audra McDonald, Benj Pasek, Debra Messing, Free to Be Foundation co-founder Gloria Steinem, Michael McElroy, and others who will share their own experiences with the work. It will serve as a fundraiser for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. As for Bareilles, she will debut a new version of the 1972 Grammy and Emmy Award-winning song, “Free to Be...You and Me,” marking the first time it will have been covered and released since its debut.

Warner Music Group’s Arts Music division is releasing the track that day, and fans may notice a few tweaks to the lyrics. "During this turbulent time of quarantine and social injustice," Thomas said in a statement announcing the news, "freedom for children as well as adults is on the line like never before. Also, in order to better embrace the non-binary community, we changed a lyric that referred to ‘boys’ and ’girls’ growing up to be 'men' and 'women.'" 

Added Rudetsky: "I first became obsessed with Free To Be… when I was 9 and played the role of William, who wants a doll, in my fourth grade class play, and James has often told me about falling in love with Free To Be… after hearing it in his kindergarten class and making his Mom drive all over Dallas to buy the album."

The Free to Be…You and Me special is produced in association with the Free to Be Foundation and Free to Be Media, under advisement from Michael Barra of Lively McCabe Entertainment on behalf of the Free to Be Foundation. Since its launch on March 16, Stars in the House, a Drama Desk Award-winning daily series, has raised more than $352,000 to benefit the Actors Fund.