BC/EFA Celebrated End of Fall Fundraising with Red Bucket Follies Featuring Hundreds of Singers and Dancers and Outstanding Choreography
By: Ellis Nassour
December 12, 2019: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ Red Bucket Follies (#redbucketfollies) (formerly, Gypsy of the Year) celebrated the end of the second period of fundraising Monday and Tuesday with memorable songs, choreography, and skits by multi-talented singers, dancers, composers, and arrangers and the announcement of the final tally: an astonishing $5,631,888, the second-highest fall fundraising total in Broadway Cares history.
Returning to host for his 12th hilarious year was musical maven and ultimate Broadway buff Seth Rudetsky, host of SiriusXM’s On Broadway channel and who, hands down, could win any speed-talking contest.
Red Bucket Follies was performed at the New Amsterdam Theatre, home to Disney’s Aladdin.
Performing were more than 150 performers from Chicago, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen, Hamilton, The Lion King, Off Broadway’s A Musical About Star Wars, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Rose Tattoo.
These featured Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan Jackson, Jelani Remy and Ephraim Sykes (Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations); Christian Borle and Jonathan Groff (Little Shop of Horrors); André De Shields (Hadestown); PJ Griffith and Ashley Matthews (Rock of Ages); Ellie MacPherson and Sid Solomon (The Play That Goes Wrong); Tam Mutu, Sahr Ngaujah and Karen Olivo (Moulin Rouge!); and CJ Pawlikowski and John Rochette (Jersey Boys).
Backing them were the Red Bucket Follies singers and the orchestra, under the direction of Ted Arthur.
Standout moments began right at the start with “Broadway Debuts,” the fantastic opening production number, written by Michael Liscio Jr. and Jed Resnick and directed and choreographed by Richard J. Hinds and cast with 60 newbies from a six-year-old to adults in Aladdin, Hadestown, Kristin Chenoweth: for The Girls,Mean Girls, Moulin Rouge!, and Wicked.
It was followed by a salute to Broadway’s late legendary producer/director and 21-time Tony winner Hal Prince by Phantom of the Opera’s George Lee Andrews and Elizabeth Welch; Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, a stinging political commentary by Ted Deasy, David Garrison, Robyn Kerr, Marc Kudisch, Bryce Pinkham, and Tramell Tillman from The Great Society, written and directed by Kudisch and Tillman, with music by Kudisch and quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, LBJ, George Wallace, and Congressman Elijah Cummings; Route 66, directed and choreographed by Peter Gregus, honoring the national touring companies; and a salute to the hundreds of volunteers who hold the buckets during the six-week fund-raising period.
Knock-out presentations also included Dancers Responding to AIDS’ Housework starring Khori Petinaud with back-up from Julien Valme, choreographed by Josh Prince (Beautiful), which was one of the highlights at the 2019 Hudson Valley Dance Festival;Christine Pedi’s tribute to the great ladies of Broadway: Angela Lansbury, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman; and Ku’u Leo Aloha, choreographed and stunningly performed in the tradition of Hawaiian dance storytelling by Lion King’s Kellen Stancil.
The annual Moment of Silence, remembering the legacy of performers lost to AIDS, was memorably-hosted by veteran performer and 2019 Tony winning Best Actor, the marvelous Mr. Andre De Shields (Hadestown), smashingly-dressed [at Tuesday’s finale] in all white with top hat as if he was about to join the finale of A Chorus Line. He brought a hush over the audience even before the Moment of Silence as he spoke of why and should theatergoers and industry support BC/EFA; and how we must be responsible for keeping BC/EFA relevant “to ensure that all are embraced in times of crisis, isolation and injustice.” The clincher, however, which stunned and brought out the tissues was de Shields moving revelation of how BC/EFA was there during the illness and last days of his partner and also for him in the dark days afterward. It was inspiring and will be long-remembered.
Closing the show were the Grammy-winning Broadway Inspirational Voices
This edition of the Red Bucket Follies was directed by Jason Trubitt. Matthew Kurtis Lutz was production stage manager leading a team of 14 stage managers. The production was sponsored by The New York Times.
Judges for the Best Presentation Awards were: Derren Brown (Derren Brown: Secret); Andrew Burnap, Samuel H. Levine and Kyle Soller (The Inheritance); Damon Daunno and Rebecca Naomi Jones(Oklahoma!); Michael Benjamin Washington (Fires in the Mirror); and Sharon Wheatley and Astrid Van Wieren (Come From Away). The panel included major BC/EFA backers Leslie Mayer and Peg Wendlandt, who won spots by bidding on VIP packages at September’s 33rd Broadway Flea Market’s Grand Auction.
The top fundraisers and performance awards were announced Tuesday by Christian Borle and Jonathan Groff (Little Shop of Horrors) and Adrienne Warren and Daniel J. Watts (Tina).
Top Overall Fundraiser: Hamilton – And Peggy tour, which raised an astounding $434,841. This follows its win at Spring’s Easter Bonnet Competition.
Best Onstage Presentation: Fiddler on the Roof – in Yiddish for it’s spectacularly-costumed and chutzpah-filled Radio City Chanukah Spectacular parody A Spectacular,Nu?, complete with a dancing camel, dreidel-infused Nutcracker, and high-kicking Menorahkettes.
Runner-up: of The Great Society ‘s Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.
Since 1989, the 29 editions of Gypsy of the Year and the first edition of Red Bucket Follies raised $82-million.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. Drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of theater audiences, it has raised more than $300-million since 1988 for essential services for people with AIDS and critical illnesses.
BC/EFA is the major supporter of social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. There’re also annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. that provide lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling, and emergency assistance.
Red Bucket Follies production photos by Allison Stock and Monica Simoes.