Cynthia Erivo Brings Down the House at Perelman Performing Arts Center Opening

Cynthia Erivo, Rosario Dawson, Whoopi Goldberg and more were all on hand for the star-studded opening of the Perelman Performing Arts Center in New York City. A project 20 years in the making, the marble-and-glass cubed-shaped building grew out of the ashes of September 11, 2001, with a mission to revitalize and renew the arts in the area.

The night began with a pre-performance by Grammy-winning artist Adam Blackstone and guests, followed by “The Rising” featuring the students of PS22. Amanda Gorman, the youngest Presidential Inaugural poet in history, opened the night by reciting her pandemic-inspired piece, “The Miracle of Morning.”

Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Bloomberg
Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Bloomberg at PAC NYC Opening Night. Image: Darian DiCianno/

After an introduction by Goldberg, Erivo brought down the house with her soulful renditions of “Imagine” by John Lennon and the Aretha Franklin classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Other presenters included Dawson and comedic actress Phoebe Robinson, who joked she had to follow EGOTs before introducing a dance/rap collaboration featuring The Roots’ Tariq Trotter and New York City Ballet principal dance Tiler Peck.

Phoebe Robinson, Angélique Kidjo, Rosario Dawson
Phoebe Robinson, Angélique Kidjo and Rosario Dawson at PAC NYC Opening Night. Image: Darian DiCianno/

If Erivo brought down the house, South African singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo built it back up and got the crowd on their feet with a rousing interpretation of Talking Head’s “Once In A Lifetime.” The night also included a performance honoring the Lenape tribe, Manhattan’s original inhabitants.

Folake Olowofoyeku
Folake Olowofoyeku at PAC NYC Opening Night. Image: Neil Rasmus/

More than 600 guests, which included Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku and Tony Award-winner Brian Mitchell Stokes, enjoyed a pre and post-party in Metropolis by Marcus Samuelsson, the center’s new restaurant.

Under the guidance of executive director Khady Kamara, the center aims to become a global hub to connect artists and communities through ambitious yet accessible programming. Upcoming performances at PAC NYC include award-winning actor, director, producer and activist Kerry Washington in an intimate conversation spotlighting her experiences as a mother, daughter, wife, artist, advocate and trailblazer on September 26.

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Updated: September 18, 2023 — 3:02 pm