Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Gypsy of the Year Concludes Record-breaking Fundraising Season
By: Ellis Nassour
The always eagerly-anticipated, SRO Gypsy of the Year, presented by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, b
rings the annual six week of bucket-brigade audience collections and extraordinary and often quite innovative fundraising efforts by the megadedicated among show casts and volunteers to an end. This year’s 25th Anniversary presentations December 9 and 10 at the Minskoff capped off their tireless efforts with a recording-breaking cumulative total of $4,343,234!
The always spectacular production with original numbers created and choreographed by the various casts boasted over 250 gypsies, those talented singers and dancers who are the backbone of every Broadway and Off-Broadway musical and also big marquee names from other hit shows. Among those appearing in entertaining skits
The rousing opening was a bring-the-house-down number written by host Seth Rudetsky, directed and choreographed by Devanand Janki and Robert Tatad, with music direction by Ben Cohn [conducting an 18-strong orchestra], that starred the indefatigable Klea Blackhurst as the Ghost of Ethel Merman in a visit with the high-stepping acrobatic newsboys ["but, Miss Merman…Boys, call me Ethel!…We’re not newsboys, we’re newsies"] of another revival of Gypsy. This was a big as any Broadway showstopper with a huge contingent of pit singers, dressers, and costume, hair, and make-up teams.
Though not in competition, it was the number to top. Other showstoppers, all in competition for Best of the Year, followed.
Members of the company of Avenue Q, including Rod, Nicky, Kate Monster, and Trekkie Monster, celebrating their own 10th Anniversary, with John Bantay’s dedicated a creative tribute to the late Tony- and Drama Desk-winning Michael Jeter and late Tony- and Drama Desk-nominee David Carroll, stars of Wright and Forrest and Maury Yeston’s Grand Hotel, with a recreation of their showstopping "We’ll Take a Glass Together."
Then came Tom Kelly’s "Real Life on Pause," directed by Shea Sullivan and choreographed by Billy Steinberg and with singers and dancers representing the national touring companies; and the Pippin company with Pippin in Three Minutes, written, choreographed, and directed by the show’s ensemble.
Special guests included the hosts of BC/EFA’s first Gypsy fundraiser 25 years ago, Tyne Daly and Jonathan Hadary; The Glass Menagerie‘s Celia Keenan-Bolger, Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, and Brian J. Smith; Wicked‘s Lindsay Mendez; Betrayal‘s Stephen DeRosa; Peter and the Starcatcher‘s Rick Holmes; and Twelfth Night/Richard III‘s Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry.
Performance guests were Dancers Responding to AIDS; Kristine Bendul and Waldernar Quinones-Villanueva performed an erotic ballet, followed by Jen "Little Sally" Cody and William Ryall in a comic reprise, both first seen in 1995; and John Salvatore in an encore of his lessons in ballet terms, The Bewildered Bunheads, first performed in 2002.
The judges, theater names and two Flea Market bidders who won a place on the panel, gave The Lion King company, always ready with a spectacular and original dance number, top honors for Best Onstage Presentation. Runner up was the cast of Newsies, doing the leaps and jaw-dropping acrobatics they are known for [a cast that has won special favor from Sir Ian!]. No insult to them, but they’ve won in the past, and many in the audience just couldn’t understand how the poignant, fun, and novel Avenue Q number simply didn’t rate top honors or the #2 spot.
Since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $250-million to benefit the org’s national programs and grants [in 2013, over $1.5-million to food service and meal delivery programs; over $2-million for advocacy and community service outreach; $240,000 in Hurricane Sandy relief, and $55,000 to Physician Volunteers for the Arts], in addition to programs of the Actors Funds. The 25 Gypsy of the Year editions alone have raised over $50-million. The 2013 production was co-sponsored by United Airlines and The New York Times.
BC/EFA executive director, on announcing this year’s record-breaking total, pointed out, "The money goes to not next month, not next week but immediately." Miss Daly said it best in an exit line: "The goal, of course, is that one day soon we won’t have to have events such as these."