By Maureen Lee Lenker
September 07, 2020 at 10:24 AM EDT
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Nick Cordero, the Broadway star who died in July after a prolonged battle with the coronavirus, was honored Sunday night with a virtual memorial that celebrated his life.

Cordero's family, including wife Amanda Kloots and his mother, Lesley, joined the celebration, as did many of Cordero's collaborators on stage, including Chazz Palminteri, Robert De Niro, and Susan Stroman. The tribute was streaming for free on Broadway On Demand, though Kloots requested viewers make donations in Cordero's name to the Save the Music Foundation, which supports music education programs in public schools, by texting "Cordero" to 41444.

"Nick would want this memorial to be a celebration, something that makes people smile, makes people sing, that makes people remember his life in a beautiful way," Kloots began. "Nick always felt so blessed, so I want to thank you for joining me tonight in celebration of his life."

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The tribute including numerous musical performances, including renditions of some of Cordero's songs from the various Broadway shows he featured in (Rock of Ages, Waitress, A Bronx Tale, Bullets Over Broadway) and new interpretations of some of the performer's original music.

The celebration began with a new version of  "One of the Great Ones" from A Bronx Tale, opening and closing with footage of Cordero's own acoustic performance of the number. With modified lyrics to honor Cordero, the song features more than 150 of his friends, colleagues, and family from around the world.

Cordero was nominated for a Tony for his role as Cheech in Bullets Over Broadway in 2018. In addition to his Broadway credits, the memorial also celebrated his TV work on shows like Blue Bloods and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as his work as a singer-songwriter and his devotion to his family.

"Nick was a performer from a noticeably young age," his mother, Lesley, said during a segment. "He was also a singer-songwriter and he was always putting a band together. We used to say that's when he got to be creative...He was all about relationships. He was larger-than-life but at the same time he had the amazing ability to create and maintain really amazing relationships with people."

"Nick was a seeker. Being successful in one area or one geographical location wasn't enough for him," she added. "He had to try all facets of the performance industry and there were so many more that I know that he wanted to do."

Kloots remembered how Cordero was on the verge of giving up on performing when he got his life-changing, Tony-nominated role in Bullets Over Broadway. The memorial features a clip from the musical's Tony performance, including footage of him singing next to Kloots, whom he met on the show.

The show's director Susan Stroman joined to pay tribute to Cordero. "I had never seen Nick before or even heard of, but the minute that 6 foot, 5 inch man walked through the door and used that sultry voice, I said, 'This is Cheech,'" she said. "He was a humble, gentle, kind, and gracious man. He felt music in every bone of his body. He was a joy to watch rehearse and grow and grow and grow into the part."

Stroman also recounted watching Nick and Amanda fall in love over the course of the show. "They were both filled with kindness," she said. "I couldn't be happier that they found each other. Amanda, Nick, and [their son] Elvis together were a bundle of all that is good and beautiful in life."

More tributes are still to come for Cordero. On Sept. 17, his birthday, fans will be able to purchase a live performance album featuring Cordero's 2019 appearance in his cabaret show Live Your Life: Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below. His friend and former co-star Zach Braff even honored Cordero with a new tattoo.

Perhaps no one summed it up better than A Bronx Tale producer De Niro, who said, "“We’ll all meet up there some day, but he left way, way, way too soon."

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