The statistics are staggering: Every 68 seconds someone in America will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and by 2050, that frequency will increase to every 33 seconds. To spread that message, and raise funds for research and support patients and their caregivers, the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org) stages its annual spring A Night at Sardi's musical benefit, where top stars from film and television lend their voices to the cause.
The 20th anniversary event added another $1.3 million to the more than $20 million raised over the past two decades. Laurie Burrows Grad (pictured above), who founded the event in honor of her late father, Broadway playwright/director Abe Burrows, is pleased about that: the fact that the Obama administration has allocated more funds to Alzheimer's, and that awareness about the disease has increased. "It's much more in the forefront than it was when we started 20 years ago," she said, hopeful that a cure, or at least more effective treatments, will be found soon. She was also glad to see new faces joining perennial performers in the cast of this year's show, which had a showstoppers theme, drawing from a variety of musicals rather than one.
Following an award ceremony that honored the producers of the CBS drama "Unforgettable," in which the main character's mother has Alzheimer's, and philanthropist Susan Disney Lord, who recently lost her mother to the disease, performers including Kristen Bell, Alfre Woodard, Zachary Levi, Patrick Cassidy, Scott Porter and Josh Radnor took the stage solo, while married "Rent" veterans Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs sang a duet on the title song from "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Wayne Brady and Lamorne Morris performed "Fat and Greasy" from the same show. The cast of "The Big Bang Theory" had fun with a "Hair" medley capped by Simon Helberg "disrobing" to a nude bodysuit, Steven Weber impressed with a rapid-fire name check of 50 Russian composers in "Tchaikovsky," and host David Hyde Pierce elicited laughs with "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)."
Sardi's newcomer Joey McIntyre (pictured below, right), whose mother has Alzheimer's, performed "Don't Rain on My Parade," and Peter Gallagher, reprising his number from the inaugural "Sardi's" event, sang "Luck Be a Lady" in honor of his late mother. Now shooting the third season of "Covert Affairs," recurring on NBC's "Whitney," and awaiting the releases of "Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful to You" and the fourth "Step Up" movie, Gallagher is driving his second Prius (his first is in Toronto, where he shoots "Affairs") and has eliminated water bottles from his home. McIntyre, who's preparing for a NKOTB/Backstreet Boys European tour, conserves by making sure his kids never leave the water running.
After presenting the award to "Unforgettable," on which she has appeared and serves as a consultant since she has the rare super autobiographical memory ability that the show's detective protagonist uses to solve crimes, Marilu Henner (pictured above, center) sang a medley of songs with a body parts theme. About to hit the road to promote her book "Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future," due out April 24, she's happily trying all the goodies she got at a natural products expo she attended recently.
"I'm glad to be here to help and raise awareness," said Melora Hardin, who did a five-month stint in "Chicago" on Broadway and sang her character's signature number "Roxie Hart." She'll also get to sing in her TBS series "Wedding Band," due in August, which casts her opposite Brian Austin Green and Harold Perrineau as a wedding planner and sometime performer. Her eco-conscious efforts include recycling and carrying bags in her purse that she uses for clothing and grocery shopping.
Kunal Nayyar (pictured above, left) was glad to participate again this year with the "Big Bang Theory" cast. "We're humbled that they keep thinking of us. We have a lot of fun at work and we make a lot of people laugh but we also have a social responsibility to give back to the community and this is one of the ways we do it," he said, noting that a close friend's father had Alzheimer's. Pleasantly surprised by the sitcom's rising ratings in its fifth season (a possible result of syndication exposure, he theorized), Nayyar was especially excited about two guest star appearances: Leonard Nimoy this week (March 29) and Stephen Hawking in the April 5 episode, and the upcoming wedding of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). A recent newlywed himself, Nayyar hopes to take a belated honeymoon to Europe during his hiatus, "maybe the Amalfi coast." Having made an effort to eliminate plastics from his life, he carries a collapsible cup and uses paper containers whenever possible.
Lamorne Morris, whose friend's mother died from Alzheimer's, was also happy to take part. He's been enjoying the success of Fox's "New Girl," and revealed a surprising development in the season's May finale: "One of the roommates moves out of the loft." At home, he makes an effort to take short showers, something his mother scolded him about whenever he left the water running too long. "She's very strict about that," he said.
"I have very close relatives who have had Alzheimer's or have it now," said comedian Jon Lovitz, who showed off his vocal chops on "The King of Broadway" from "The Producers." Recurring on "Hot in Cleveland" and doing standup at his eponymous L.A. comedy club and around the country, Lovitz has several movies awaiting release including "Jewtopia," a comedy in which he plays husband to Rita Wilson and dad to Joel David Moore. His green habit? "I recycle my trash," he said.
Jane Seymour attended with husband James Keach, with whom she's making a documentary about singer Glenn Campbell's struggle with Alzheimer's. "We've been following Glenn everywhere and talking to doctors and scientists," said Seymour, who'll star in the Hallmark Channel movie "Lake Effects" on May 6, appear in the ABC Family musical "Elixir," and on the big screen, play the woman who runs "Austenland," a British destination for fans of author Jane Austen. Professing herself "very green," Seymour fills her home with organic products, conserves water and composts. "We recycle everything."
Eva LaRue confided that even though Alzheimer's hasn't touched her personally, she's concerned that it will, considering the odds. One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's. "My parents are getting older now," she said, "and at least one of them might get it." The "CSI: Miami" star will likely stay employed if the series isn't renewed — she landed a comedy pilot for ABC. She recently remodeled her sprinkler system "so that it's low flow and doesn't waste water. It's on bubblers so the water goes directly to the plant rather than spraying all over."
Ken Howard, whose father had Alzheimer's, attends every year. "They've helped a lot of people," he says of the Alzheimer's Association. He was about to leave for Atlanta to shoot "A.C.O.D." which stands for Adult Children of Divorce, and he has a recurring role on "30 Rock." "I'm still working, not bad for an old guy," he said, noting that his wife keeps him on the green path. "She's really good at it and I do what she tells me. I'm not sure I can live up to Ed Begley but I'm doing OK. I think we're pretty ahead of the curve in a lot of things."
Photos: Getty Images for Alzheimer's Association