BC/EFA Easter Bonnet Competition Ends Spring Fundraising Drive with
Another Record-breaking Tally
By Ellis Nassour
The generosity of Broadway and Off Broadway audiences and those across the country shone brightly for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ six week Spring fundraising season. At the festive finale of the 29th annual Easter Bonnet Competition (#bwaybonnets) at the Minskoff Tuesday it was revealed that the red bucket brigades and special fundraising activities led to another record breaker: a mind-boggling $4,711,386 .
This marked the third consecutive year the tally soared as high as some of the 18 designer Easter bonnets worn by cast members of Broadway, Off Broadway, and touring companies. Easter Bonnet Competitions have raised $63.3 million. Last year’s event raised $4,532,129.
Special guests Dame Helen Mirren (The Audience), Matthew Morrison (Finding Neverland), Andy Karl (On the Twentieth Century), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) distributed the winning certificates. Participating in the Spring drive were 52 shows. For two days, more than 200 performers had audiences in stitches with their sketches.
Segment hosts were Adinah Alexander, Jen Perry, and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Kinky Boots); Francesca Faridany and Alex Sharp(The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time); Ann Harada (original Avenue Q); Jasmine Cephas Jones, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Phillipa Soo (Hamilton); Rob McClure and Nancy Opel (Honeymoon in Vegas); Aaron Nelson and Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King), who saluted grants made by BC/EFA to South Africa programs; and Micah Stock (It’s Only a Play).
Andrea Martin and Seth Rudetsky introduced the judges: Actors Fund president/CEO Joseph Benincasa, Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn (Fun Home), Vanessa Hudgens and Corey Cott (Gigi), Robert Fairchild and director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris), Judith Ivey and Rufus Wright (The Audience), and Nathaniel Parker (Wolf Hall: Parts One and Two). Also on the panel were Jake Perlman and Peg Wendlandt, the high bidders on exclusive VIP packages at September’s Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction.
Top fundraisers –
Top fundraiser: The Book of Mormon – $325,556;
Runner-up: Aladdin – $150,869;
Second Runner-up: The Phantom of the Opera – $147,178;
Third Runner-up: Jersey Boys – $142,765
Top Fundraiser: Fish in the Dark – $140,374;
Runner-up: It’s Only a Play – $120,720
See www.broadwaycares.org for complete list of winners.
Jersey Boys took top design honors for its shimmering crystal-and LED-covered bonnet, created by Ricky Yates. In quite an upset, the Best Presentation award went to Avenue Q for a side-splitting parody of Disney’s long-running smash The Lion King [and in it’s "home"] to the tune of "Circle of Life" – perhaps, a sharp dig at the show that’s been a perennial winner.
Runner-up honors went to Jersey Boys, featuring current and alumni cast members who showed what happened when the legendary show went global by delivering amusing international versions performed by a mariachi band, a German oompah band, a reggae quartet, and full-scale Bollywood production number.
James Hindman and Stacia Fernandez’s opening number "Broadway in Vegas," featuring Jason Kravits, Jen Perry, and large chorus and directed and choreographed by Rommy Sandu, parodied the truncated versions of shows that have played the neon sand pit, singing "There’s No Show Like a Short Show" to the tune of Irving Berlin’s "There’s No Business Like Show Business."
There were memorable performances by Tituss Burgess, perform
ing Tiny Lear’s poignant power ballad "Because of One," honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner and Liberian activist Leymah Roberta Gbowee, which saluted the army of BC/EFA volunteers "and the transforming power of the arts"; and the always-hilarious Christine Pedi (NEWSical) and "The Witch’s Rap" – impressions of Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, and Elaine Stritch doing Sondheim Into the Woods lyrics.
Once again, the cast of Avenue Q rocked. In a knock-out upset, they captured the best presentation award with a showstopping "Bonnets of Life," a spoof where they channeled the cast of Julie Taymor and Disney’s blockbuster The Lion King. It was a side-splitting and certainly innovative dig at TLK’s perennial status taking best in show.
Current and past cast members of Mamma Mia!, playing its final performance in September after nearly 14 years on Broadway, did a moving acapella version of ABBA’s "Thank You for the Music." Sixteen of Broadway’s top dancers saluted 21 national touring productions with innovative choreography by Charlie Williams.
It was another season where Broadway’s youngsters stole the show. A stand-in for producer Cameron Mackintosh, trying to find a fresh face to play Jean Valjean in Les Miz, hires Joshua Colley, a 10-year-old prodigy with a voice way beyond his years who does battle with Javert’s understudy John Rapson to "The Confrontation" created an uproar. Colley will be in demand for the role of Valjean world-wide and will return to star as him in the next Broadway revival.
Chicago‘s Mama Morton, NaTasha Yvette Williams (Porgy and Bess, Color Purple), led her castmates in a jazzy rendition of the Al Jolson trademark song "April Showers"; but was totally upstaged by her four-year-old twins, Mackenzie Lee and Nile Lee, with Nile especially proving he knows how to dance and take a bow.
Two-time Tony nom and Olivier-winning Gavin Creel (Book of Mormon) opened the finale with BC/EFA’s Easter Bonnet anthem, David Friedman’s poignant blockbuster hit "Help Is On the Way.".
Behind the scenes there was an army of stage managers commanded by production stage manager Jason Trubitt. Kristin Newhouse directed.