Well, Hello Dolly … and a most gracious and high-stepping bow to the extraordinary and generous enthusiasm of 63 Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies whose amazing fundraising efforts will allow BC/EFA to provide essential services support for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.
An afternoon of standing ovations at the 22nd Annual GYPSY OF THE YEAR Competition started with the entrance of legendary performer Carol Channing, who was honored in the show’s opening number for her role in Hello, Dolly! and countless other productions. And the ovations didn’t end until an enthralled New Amsterdam Theatre audience leapt to its feet as Bernadette Peters, Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes announced that $3,776,720 had been raised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
This impressive result brought The GYPSY OF THE YEAR Competition’s 22-year total to $44,136,720!
Held this year on December 6 and 7, GYPSY is the culmination of six weeks of intensive fundraising by Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies. It’s also a sensational display of the most talented singers and dancers in the chorus of shows (known as “gypsies”).
This year’s star-studded show was hosted by the “King of Deconstruction,” Seth Rudetsky, and included surprise performances and appearances by David Hyde Pierce (La Bete), Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), Cherry Jones (Mrs. Warren’s Profession), T.R. Knight (A Life in the Theatre), Douglas Hodge (La Cage aux Folles) and Molly Shannon (Promises, Promises).
Back Where She Belongs
The 22nd Annual GYPSY OF THE YEAR Competition opened with an unforgettable tribute to Dolly herself, three-time Tony Award-winner Carol Channing. Resplendent in white sequins, the stage and screen legend held the stage alone with a delightfully mischievous rendition of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from her first Broadway smash, 1949’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Then, backed by an all-male chorus line dressed in tuxedos and two-toned spats, she brought the Harmonia Gardens back to life with the rousing title song from Hello, Dolly! — the show which made her a legend in 1964. “Carol for a Cure” was directed and choreographed by Melissa Rae Mahon and Sean McKnight with musical arrangements by Ben Cohn.
After the opening number, the Broadway legend was joined on-stage by longtime friend Tyne Daly and Hello, Dolly! co-star Lee Roy Reams. The pair presented Carol with a birthday cake nearly as tall as Carol herself. “I’m thrilled to be 90 years old,” she said. Tyne summed up the consensus of the crowd, “Miss Channing, you are Broadway.”
Then, for the next two hours, cast members from Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring shows showcased the best of live theater: from side-splitting skits to poignant dance, from emotional tributes to cast members lost too soon to impressive displays of vocal talents. The “gypsies” gave it their all.
This year’s Best Presentation award was given to Rock of Ages‘ Julie Nelson and her partner, Rudi Macaggi. The pair performed an acrobatic dance the likes of which have never been seen at Gypsy, let alone on a Broadway stage. The gravity-defying dance, called “The Puppet Master,” was choreographed by Rudi, who also was a contestant on TV’s America‘s Got Talent.
First runner-up in the performance category was The Addams Family‘s Pugsly, Adam Riegler, who delivered a hilarious “It Gets Better”-themed monologue on the challenges and dubious joys of being in The Addams Family. Adam offered hope to cast members from other critically abused shows: “It gets better, over $1 million a week better.” The monologue was written and created by Nathan Lane, Alena Watters and Kevin Phillips; and directed by Nathan.This year’s GYPSY had its share of funny moments in song, too.
Cast members from La Cage Aux Folles mixed in a bit of Billy Elliot as a crusty, chain-smoking Mrs. Wilkinson, played by Cheryl Stern, prepped the lazy Cagelles to audition for the upcoming revival of Annie, complete with A.J. Shively making a run for the title role. They were soon joined by Tony Award-winning Douglas Hodge as an extremely inebriated Miss Hannigan. The Cagelles-turned-orphans concluded by spelling out “A-N-N-I-E” in oversized letters, then adding a “T” and “R” preceding the famous title.
Mamma Mia! gave a shout-out to its Winter Garden predecessor, the long-running Cats. Spoofing the television showHoarders, the skit found a long-lost Stacia Fernandez living in the basement of the theater, hoarding cats. Their spoof ended in a Grey Gardens-influenced version of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” flipped to “The Hoarder Takes It All.”
Backed by the mind-boggling vocals of Ryan (“Mary Sunshine”) Lowe with music director Leslie Stifelman on piano,Chicago‘s Michael Cusamano presented domineering Russian ballerina “Olga,” a swan who died hilariously while shouting high-pitched remarks like “I miss communism” and “I anorexic”.
No one makes her presence known quite like Promises, Promises’ Molly Shannon and she didn’t disappoint at GYPSY. Molly limped onstage as her menopausal Saturday Night Live character Sally O’Malley, hijacking a dance audition for an imaginary Kristin Chenoweth Christmas television special. Dressed in Sally’s signature red pants and out-of-control hair, the perpetually 50-year-old “Sally” tried to kick her way into a spot as a back-up dancer, to the delight of the audience.
Cast members from the edgy, rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – wearing blood-stained T-shirts reminiscent of their show – shared a little musical secret with the GYPSY audience: “We’re a Lot More Like Broadway Than You Think,” taking jabs at those who consider the emo musical not “Broadway” enough. The company of My Big Gay Italian Wedding presented “Drive by Comments” featuring the hilarious cast greeting ticket buyers expressing actual remarks made by audience members leaving the show.
The casts of two touring shows traveled into New York City to perform at this year’s GYPSY. The Four Seasons from the national tour of Jersey Boys performed “The Tough Guys Movie Medley,” highlighting songs like “Eye of the Tiger” and “Danger Zone.” For the first time in GYPSY history, a second national tour also performed. The touring company of Mary Poppins sang “Here We Go,” an original musical number written by cast member Geoffrey Goldberg about the challenges of life on the road.
The dance skills of the theater community were spotlighted, as well, in several numbers.
Billy Elliot the Musical offered a tap-dancing take on Rhianna’s “Don’t Stop the Music,” sung live by David Larsen.
Cast members from Broadway’s Mary Poppins presented a moving dance piece to John Mayer’s “Say.” They dedicated their performance to the lives recently lost because of bullying and those who continue to suffer.
Other more serious numbers included: three dancers from Fela!, presenting “Sector 65131,” set to the music “Meltdown” by Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet; dancers from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown performing a stirring, sensual number set to the song “Secrets” by One Republic; and cast members from Wicked singing Paul Williams’ “When the River Meets the Sea,” backed by cello, violin and guitar.
The cast of The Lion King brought the audience to tears after “Mele Ohana,” a beautiful Hawaiian-themed dance dedicated to Lisa-Marie Lewis, a cast member fighting breast cancer, and in memory of 11-year-old Shannon Skye Tavarez, who lost her fight with Leukemia earlier this year. Shannon’s last wish had been to visit Hawaii, which inspired the theme.
In the Heights made its final GYPSY appearance featuring cast members past and present – including current and recent Usnavis, Kyle Beltran and Javier Munoz. The entire company was surprised on stage by the appearance of the show’s co-creator and original star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who joined the cast in a fusion of original material and songs from their Tony Award-winning musical, which closes in January.
In addition to the show presentations, GYPSY featured a number celebrating the 60th anniversary of the “gypsy robe,” a ceremonial cloak presented on opening night of new shows to the chorus member with the most Broadway credits. The stirring dance number, choreographed by Shea Sullivan, closed with a parade of past robe recipients including Adrian Bailey, Michael Duran, Dana Moore, Richie Mastacusa, Judine Richards and Megan Sikora.
Long-time AIDS activist and television and theatre star Judith Light recalled the first GYPSY OF THE YEAR in 1989, a time when everyone in the audience knew someone who was infected or affected by the HIV virus.” The Lombardi star then led a moment of silence and reminded the audience, No one is alone.” View video.
Behind the Scenes Support
In total, 63 Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring participated in the six-week fundraising period leading up to GYPSY. Billy Porter (Angels in America), Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (A Little Night Music) and Elizabeth Stanley (Million Dollar Quartet) shared with the audience the Broadway shows that participated but didn’t present at this year’s GYPSY OF THE YEAR: American Idiot, Brief Encounter, Colin Quinn: Long Story Short, Driving Miss Daisy, Elf the Musical, Jersey Boys, La Bete, A Life in the Theatre, A Little Night Music, Lombardi, Memphis, The Merchant of Venice, Million Dollar Quartet, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Next to Normal, The Phantom of the Opera, The Pitmen Painters, Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, The Scottsboro Boys, Time Stands Still and West Side Story.
Off-Broadway shows raising money but not presenting included: After the Revolution, Angels in America, Avenue Q, Blue Man Group (New York), Devil Boys From Beyond, The Divine Sister, In Transit, The Language Archive, Love, Loss and What I Wore, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage, Naked Boys Singing!, The Screwtape Letters, Spirit Control and Stomp.
National tours included: 9 to 5, Billy Elliot The Musical (Chicago), Blue Man Group (Boston), Blue Man Group (Chicago),Dreamgirls, In the Heights, The Lion King (Gazelle Company), Mamma Mia!, Shrek the Musical (First National Tour), South Pacific, West Side Story, Wicked (Emerald City Tour), Wicked (Munchkinland Tour) and Young Frankenstein.
Though GYPSY OF THE YEAR is a celebration of life as well as the accomplishments achieved by so many in the theatre industry over the past six weeks, it is also a competition. The impressive panel of judges, introduced by Colin Quinn (Long Story Short), included Jason Danieley (Next to Normal), Alison Fraser (The Divine Sister), Boyd Gaines (Driving Miss Daisy), Marin Mazzie (Next to Normal), Bebe Neuwirth (The Addams Family), Eve Plumb (Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage), Patricia White (President of the Theatrical Wardrobe Union) and Nick Wyman (President of Actors Equity Association).
We Have Winners
GYPSY 2010 ended as Bernadette Peters joined Promises, Promises’ Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes to present the afternoon’s awards. This year’s competition ended with the following top-dollar raising shows:
First Runner Up
Second Runner Up
Third Runner Up
The Addams Family
Natinal Touring Shows
First Runner Up
Wicked (Emerald City)
Second Runner Up
Third Runner Up
Shrek The Musical
Driving Miss Daisy
First Runner Up
A Life in the Theatre
First Runner Up
The Divine Sister
So Many to Thank
Under the expert direction of Kristin Newhouse and Assistant Director Alex Lyu Volckhausen, this year’s two performances played before thousands of members of the Broadway community, fans and BC/EFA supporters.
With a cast of more than 200 and scores of volunteers involved in tasks large and small, an event of this size would not be possible without the extraordinary team of stage managers led by Jason Trubitt, including Terry Alexander, Michael Rico Cohen, Bess Marie Glorioso, Samuel Moses Jones, Bart Kahn, Valerie Lau Kee Lai, Johnny Milani, Joshua Pilote, Alexis Prussack, Jennifer Rogers and David Sugarman and the entire crew at the New Amsterdam Theatre.
BC/EFA is deeply grateful for the generous fundraising efforts and support of all 63 Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring shows whose extraordinary hard work and dedication made this year’s grand total possible.
Special thanks to the photographers whose work is represented on this page:
Peter James Zielinski and Tomas Vrzala