Fonda, Irons, Sarandon, Minnelli Headline at the Minskoff
The 23rd Annual Easter Bonnet Competition raised an astounding and unexpected $3,402,147 through the combined efforts of 58 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway, and National Tour companies. Since 1987, when the first Easter Bonnet Competition raised $18,000, 23 editions of this now extraordinary, highly-anticipated annual event have brought in more than $39 million, almost 25% of BC/EFA’s lifetime total of over $160 million.
From hosts to performers to judges, this year’s competition – held April 27th and 28th at 45th Street’s Minskoff Theatre – featured Broadway’s best, and A-list guests, who put their hearts into making Easter Bonnet’s six-plus weeks of fundraising a smashing success.
This year’s opening number, written and directed by Michael Lee Scott, with choreography by Tammy Colucci and musical direction by Jeffrey Biering, was titled “Broadway Don’t Bring Me No Bad News” and featured a line-up of Broadway’s finest: Aisha de Haas and Norm Lewis, with special appearances by Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Julia Murney, and Seth Rudetsky, in addition to more than 20 dancers, off-stage vocalists and a stunning showgirl, Stephanie Gibson.
As if this weren’t enough, the audience was brought to its feet by the surprise appearance of Liza Minnelli, who made her Easter Bonnet debut by closing an already memorable opening number with a special rendition of “New York, New York.” Before the show was barely begun we had them cheering for more.
This year’s hosts included Danny Burstein(South Pacific) and Rebecca Luker (Mary Poppins); Joan Allen (Impressionism) and Tovah Feldshuh (Irena’s Vow); Javier Munoz (In The Heights) and Karen Olivo (West Side Story) and John Tartaglia(Shrek The Musical) and Gavin Creel (Hair) who introduced the afternoon’s bonnets, as well as Andre De Shields (Impressionism), Thomas Sadoski (reasons to be pretty) and Laura Osnes (South Pacific) who announced shows raising funds but not presenting bonnets.
Bonnet highlights included:
- The cast of Mary Poppins presentation, “I Think We Need a Tap Number Here,” which showed how adding razzle-dazzle tap dance routines to West Side Story, Jersey Boys, Wicked and South Pacific would ensure longer runs for those productions;
- Although they have always fundraised for BC/EFA, before this year, the cast of Chicago had taken five years off from actually presenting a bonnet and/or an accompanying skit. In 2009, they re-entered the fray with a hilarious take-off of “The Cell Block Tango,” entitled “The Chopping Block Tango” in which characters from Spamalot, Gypsy, Young Frankenstein, Hairspray, Spring Awakening, and Grease sang the tales of woe associated with the ends of their respective runs on Broadway;
- The cast of Wicked expressed their awe and affection for tabloid favorite, the “Octomom”, with a special rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “More”.
- The extraordinary fundraising by 23 national touring shows was represented by a modern dance choreographed by Shea Sullivan to Dolly Parton’s “Travelin’ Thru” and culminating in a bonnet built as an airplane with a jet stream of the 23 colorful show logos;
- Avenue Q’s presentation, “You’re Nothing Without Me,” reunited current cast members Benjamin Schrader (along with “Rod”) and Howie Michael Smith with original cast member John Tartaglia;
- The Little Mermaid’s Trevor Braun rebuffed his agent’s suggestions that he audition for age-appropriate roles in Billy Elliot, Oliver, and 13 and instead set his sights on the upcoming revival of Dreamgirls with a remarkably precocious performance of “And I Telling You I’m Not Going”,
- Breaking with their own tradition, the cast of Naked Boys Singing dispensed with jokes and nudity, presenting a beautiful, serious number about recovery from addiction and were called back by a cheering audience for a second well-deserved curtain call.
- Jane Fonda led the cast of 33 Variations in a “Voluntary Rehearsal” which, in fact, becomes an 80’s style “Jane Fonda’s Workout” pre-show warm-up, complete with unitards, legwarmers and, for the guys, bright headbands.
- Easter Bonnet favorite, Doris Eaton Travis, at age 105, appeared with the cast of Billy Elliot, teaching Greg Jbara, Liz Pearce and the corps of young, wannabe ballerinas “Ballin’ the Jack,” a number she first performed over 80 years ago. Travis made her Broadway debut at the age of 14 in 1918 in the legendary Ziegfeld Follies at The New Amsterdam Theatre.
By the end of the afternoon, the sold-out Bonnet audience applauded delightful, heartfelt and hilarious presentations fromGuys and Dolls; Naked Boys Singing; The Lion King; The Phantom of the Opera; West Side Story; Mamma Mia and Hair, as well as special Bonnet “walk-ons” from Jersey Boys and Impressionism.
(For photos of all the Bonnet presentations, please check out the “Slideshow.”)
Oh, No They Didn’t!
Nice was balanced by naughty in the form of special guests Don Richard (Wicked) and Jen Cody (Shrek The Musical) reprising their beloved portrayals of Urinetown’s ‘Officer Lockstock’ and ‘Little Sally.’
But this much-loved duo wasn’t alone. Other shows opting for outrageous humor included:
- Off-Broadway’s The Marvelous Wonderettes presenting a delightful five-part harmony rendition of the R-rated classic “Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals;”
- With “Stimulus Plan,” Shrek the Musical suggested other musicals might pick up a few tricks from its gassy title character, inserting “rear-end explosions” into Billy Elliot, West Side Story, Mary Poppins and even The Little Mermaid(which substituted bubbles for noise);
All 18 Easter bonnets were presented “en tableau” as Andrea Burns (In The Heights) sang a stirring bilingual rendition of David Friedman’s “Help Is On The Way,” the now traditional Easter Bonnet Competition closing number. Before she sang, Burns sweetly told the audience of being one of the back-up singers in 1995 when the song closed the Easter Bonnet Competition for the first time and was sung by the late Nancy LaMott.
Jeremy Irons (Impressionism), Jane Fonda (33 Variations) and Susan Sarandon (Exit The King) were on hand to present the awards for top fundraising companies and the outstanding bonnet presentations.
Curtain speeches, autographed poster and program sales, auctions, and cabaret performances brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars from audiences prior to the competition. Of these shows, the top Broadway fundraisers were:
- Third Runner-up Shrek the Musical $139,304
- Second Runner-up Billy Elliot $155,103
- First Runner-up Wicked $176,714
- Top Broadway Fundraiser 33 Variations $183,546
A special award was also given to the top fundraising Off-Broadway company, Distracted for raising a terrific $31,819 in the 499 seat Laura Pels Theatre.
BC/EFA is especially grateful for the generosity shown by audiences in response to the appeals made by touring productions. This year 17 tours flexed their fundraising muscles. Top earners were:
- Third Runner-up Jersey Boys, Chicago $130,570
- Second Runner-up Mamma Mia! $135,111
- First Runner-up Wicked, San Francisco $254,888
- Top National Tour Fundraiser Rent $352,000
With the grand, grand total of $352,000, the national tour of Rent stood tallest in a fundraising field of amazing accomplishment. Hats off to Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal and the entire company, lead by tireless stage manager, Michael McGoff.
The Easter Bonnet judges were a star-studded lot this year and included Laura Benanti (Why Torture Is Wrong and The People Who Love Them), Brian D’Arcy James(Shrek), Marsha Mason (Impressionism), Alice Ripley (next to normal), and the cast of God of Carnage: Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini.
This year’s judges were introduced with great pomp and circumstance and a bit of tongue in cheek by two of the stars of Exit the King, Geoffrey Rush and Andrea Martin.
The judges’ awards for Bonnet presentations went to:
- Second Runner-Up Naked Boys Singing, for their moving, highly personal number “Gravity”, focusing on the struggle to overcome addiction.
- First Runner-Up Billy Elliot
- Winning Presentation 33 Variations
The special award for Outstanding Bonnet design was also given to 33 Variation and bonnet designer, David Masenheimer.
With this award, 33 Variations made Easter Bonnet history by winning all three top honors; fundraising, bonnet presentation and bonnet design! A perfect “Bonnet Trifecta!”
The People Who Make it Happen
To paraphrase an advertizing maxim, “The show is the ‘sizzle,’ but the fundraising is the ‘steak.” And this year, 58 shows of all sizes – on Broadway, Off Broadway and on the road – invested weeks of intensive fundraising efforts to make The Easter Bonnet Competition a success well before the curtain rose on April 27th.
Directed by Kristin Newhousewith the invaluable support of production stage manager Valerie Lau-Kee Lai leading a team 9 of Broadway’s top stage managers, The 23rd Annual Easter Bonnet Competition was produced by Michael T. Clarkston, Michael Graziano and Scott Tucker with the support from literally thousands of volunteers who not only helped “put on a show,” but made it a triumph through countless hours of tireless fundraising on behalf of Broadway Cares.
We salute them all!
The Easter Bonnet Competition is sponsored by:
The New York Times
The official airline of BC/EFA
Special thanks to photographers:
Carlos Gustavo Monroy, Tomas Vrzala, Peter James Zielinski