Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS’ 33rd Annual Easter Bonnet Competition Monday and Tuesday at the Minskoff Theatre
By: Ellis Nassour
April 23, 2019: The Red Bucket Brigade (#redbuckets) has completed their Spring end-of-theater mission. Volunteers across 22 Broadway and Off Broadway shows and also touring companies, their casts, and crews have lobbied tirelessly for the last six weeks to benefit the multitude of programs Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS supports. Their efforts culminate and will be honored at the 33rd Annual Easter Bonnet Competition(#BroadwayBonnets)at the Minskoff Theatre, home of Disney’s The Lion King.There are two performances: Monday at 4:30 P.M., Tuesday at 2 P.M.
Records are meant to be shattered and every inspiring BC/EFA fundraiser seems determined to do that: The 33rd Easter Bonnet Competition raised $6,594,778 — the highest amount ever.
Celebrated belter Karen Mason sang the traditional “Help Is On the Way” to begin the distribution of awards:
Top Overall Fundraiser: Hamilton – And Peggy tour: $513,734. Lin-Manuel Mirandamade a surprise appearance.
Best Presentation: Fiddler on the Roof – in Yiddish – a showstopper, asking the question, “what if other Broadway classics were translated into Yiddish?” Examples:
The Book of Mormon, Chicago, Dreamgirls, Hamilton, Legally Blonde, South Pacific, West Side Story and Wickedi, culminating with the show’s Tony-winning director, Joel Grey, singing “Git op mayn grus tsu Brodvey” (“Give my regards to Broadway”) from George M!. The skit was written by cast members Ben Liebert and Adam B. Shapiro.
Best Bonnet Design went to Come From Away — designed by Melissa Joy Crawford.
Top Broadway Musical fundraisers: Hamilton $325,305, Mean Girls $238,005, The Lion King $191,378, and Wicked $180,037.
Top Broadway Play fundraisers: To Kill a Mockingbird $196,464, and Network $92,518.
Off-Broadway: Fiddler on the Roof – in Yiddish $77,283, and Avenue Q $62,396.
National Tours: Hamilton – Angelica $354,035.
After 16 riotous years on and Off-Broadway and the $1.7-million Avenue Q raised, it was, sadly, their “Closing Time,” a mournful skit performed to the tune by Semisonic.
As always one of the joys of attending these BC/EFA shows is the work of up and coming choreographers. The Easter Bonnet showcased exciting dances by James Kinney (opening number), assisted by Skye Mattox; Josh Drake (Aladdin); Richard J. Hinds and Anthony Raimondi (national tours), assisted by Ashie Dawson, Henry Byalikov, and Kathy Zelon; Richard J. Hinds and Andrew Turteltaub (Come from Away), assisted by Sarah Parker; Kinney, assisted by Alex Nordin (Dancers Responding to AIDS); Jonathan Quigley (Fiddler); Chase Brock (Be More Chill); Mike Baerga (King Kong); and John Bantay (Avenue Q).
Winners of Top Fundraiser, Best presentation and best bonnet design, as well as the much-anticipated spring fundraising total, were announced Tuesday by Bryan Cranston (Network), Jeff Daniels (To Kill a Mockingbird), Glenda Jackson (King Lear), and Kelli O’Hara (Kiss Me, Kate).
The Easter Bonnet Competition featured Stephen Ashfield, Kim Exum and Cody Jamison Strand (The Book of Mormon); Micaela Diamond and Jarrod Spector (The Cher Show); Bongi Duma and Tryphena Wade (The Lion King); Gideon Glick, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Will Pullen (To Kill a Mockingbird); Andy Karl and Orfeh (Pretty Woman); and Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber (The Prom).
Jayne Houdyshell (King Lear), Heidi Schreck (What the Constitution Means to Me), and James Snyder (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) introduced the competition’s judges.
Shows presenting songs, skits or dances and those stunning handcrafted bonnets included Aladdin, Avenue Q, Be More Chill, The Cher Show, Come From Away, Fiddler on the Roof – in Yiddish, Frozen, King Kong, Network, and NEWSical the Musical. A special Bonnet Parade included custom-crafted bonnets from Kiss Me, Kate; Waitress; Wicked; and the national tour of Hello, Dolly! as well as Broadway Cares affiliate organizations Broadway Green Alliance, Broadway Serves, and R.Evolución Latina.
Cast members from Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring companies will perform original songs and skits and exhibit their often spectacular and/or outrageous designs. On Tuesday, a panel of celebrity judges and two lucky high bidders from the annual flea market will select Best Presentation and Best Bonnet Design. Current stars on the boards will distribute certificates to the top fund raising shows.
In exchange for a donation, audiences at participating shows received autographed posters, Playbills, photo opts, memorabilia (such as the glittering tiara worn by Brooks Ashmanskas’ Barry Glickman in The Prom), and one-of-a-kind experiences, including backstage tours and meet-and-greets. Every dollar and credit card receipt dropped in buckets help provide lifesaving medication, meals, financial assistance, and more to the most vulnerable.
BC/EFA is the major supporter of the 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. Broadway Cares also awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states. Since 1987, the 32 editions of the Easter Bonnet Competition have raised $81-million to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and various charities and aid following national disasters.
The participating shows included Aladdin, Anastasia, Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon, The Cher Show, King Kong, The Lion King, Mean Girls, Merrily We Roll Alongand Wicked. Next week, Dear Evan Hansen, Fiddler on the Roof – in Yiddish, Frozen, Hamilton, Kinky Boots, My Fair Lady, The Phantom of the Opera, Pretty Woman, The Prom, To Kill a Mockingbird and Waitress. Last year, 62 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows and national tours raised $5.7-million.
Available tickets for $30-$130 to Easter Bonnet Competition can be purchased online at www.broadwaycares.org or by calling (212) 840-0770, X. 229. VIP and Priority tickets are $375 and $250. The Competition is sponsored by The New York Times.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. Since 1988, more than $300-million has been raised for essential services for those with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses. For more information, please visit the website. Follow BC/EFA at facebook.com/BCEFA, at instagram.com/BCEFA, at twitter.com/BCEFA and at youtube.com/BCEFA.