An enthralled Palace Theatre audience leapt to its feet when Bernadette Peters and Superior Donuts’Michael McKean(#1)announced that a record-breaking $4,630,695 had been raised during the six weeks of collections by Broadway, Off-Broadway and National Tour companies.
This astonishing total from 2009’s GYPSY OF THE YEAR Competition surpassed the previous record of $3,927,000 raised in 2007 bringing the 21-year GYPSY total to $40,360,000!
More history was made when A Steady Rain – led by stars Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman (#2) – raised the most money of any show in the history of the event, collecting $1,549,952! This total breaks the previous all-time fundraising record of $632,998, set in 2003 by Jackman and the company of The Boy from Oz.
The GYPSY OF THE YEAR Competition is not only the culmination of six weeks of intensive fundraising, but also a sensational display of the most talented singers and dancers in the chorus of Broadway shows (a.k.a. Broadway Gypsies). This year’s event was hosted by Tony Award winner Julie White (The Understudy) and Broadway personality, Seth Rudetsky (#3), host of “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, providing quick-witted banter and offering a heartfelt tribute to those lost to AIDS including a very personal acknowledgement of Rudetsky’s mentor, the brilliant Broadway and Off-Broadway arranger and orchestrator, James Raitt.
Headlining the Palace
With a bill worthy of its vaudeville past, packed houses at the Palace Theatre were treated to a bevy of talent and original performances created by the casts of more than a dozen shows.
GYPSY kicked off with an opening number (#4) created by Melissa Mahon, Sean McKnight and Seth Farber Farber Parodying the reality show “So You Think You Can Dance,” and featuring panelists Christopher Sieber (Shrek the Musical) as ‘Nigel Lythgoe,’ Mary Birdsong (“Reno: 911”) as ‘Mary Murphy,’ Broadway casting director Bernie Telsey as himself (#5) and a chorus of nearly fifty singers and dancers offering a display various dance styles from mambo to waltz, Robbins to Fosse. “SYTYCD” season five contestant Ryan Kasprzak (#6) made a special cameo appearance displaying some expert tapping.
The impressive panel of judges on hand to choose this year’s winners included Michael Cerveris (In The Next Room), Ana Gasteyer (The Royal Family), John Glover(The Royal Family), Montego Glover (Memphis), BC/EFA’s President and Jujamcyn Producing DirectorPaul Libin, Director/Choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge (Ragtime), Jim Norton (Finian’s Rainbow), and BC/EFA’s longtime major donor, Marion Duckworth Smith.
The Best Presentation award was given to “The Merry Men of Chicago,” who tipped their hats to West Side Story with a new take on “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love” featuring astonishing live countertenor vocals from Ryan Lowe, who plays ‘Mary Sunshine’ on Broadway.
Meanwhile, West Side Story, receiving the First Runner-Up prize, closed the performance paying homage to Michael and Janet Jackson, including an exciting rendition of “Rhythm Nation” appropriately retitled “Gypsy Nation”.
The companies of Avenue Q and In The Heights joined forces for “Shafrika, the White Girl,” (#10) created by Avenue Q’s Anika Larsen, April Nickell and Joshua Henry. Jersey Boys cast members Russell Fischer and Taylor Sternberg offered a hilarious spoken word rendition of classic Broadway showtunes a la William Shatner(#11). The youthful cast of Bye Bye Birdie honored artists who have been lost to AIDS with a tribute to Freddie Mercury and the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Wicked cast member Carrie Manolakos sang an original song called “In Your Own Grace” featuring stirring performances by dancers Kenway Kua and Samantha Zack (#13). A special a piece representing gypsies from national touring productions directed and choreographed by Shea Sullivan with associate choreographer Pamela Remler featured singer/composer Katie Thompson singing a song entitled “Your Side” with a troupe of exquisite dancers.
Classical Action and Dancers Responding to AIDS, fundraising programs of BC/EFA, offered special performances by classical pianist Natasha Paremski with a breathtaking performance of Prokofiev’s Sonata no. 7 (#15) and Keigwin + Company with the smart and humorous dance piece entitled “FLY”.
The cast of Naked Boys Singing proclaimed the solution to “Broadway-envy” is adding a nearly-naked Hugh Jackman to their cast – which would be their ticket to Broadway (#18), and Superior Donuts (#19) also tipped its hat to the stars of A Steady Rain in a skit about Jackman and Craig (#20) in the Windy City looking for the necessary grit and accents to portray Chicago cops. The topical Newsical the Musical took on the “Boy in the Balloon,” (#40) and star Christine Pedi returned with a pitch-perfect performance of “And I am Telling You I am not Going” as interpreted by Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Christine Ebersole, Julie Andrews and a dozen other Broadway divas.
Gypsies from Mary Poppins danced to Sinatra’s “I’ve Got the World on a String.” (#22) Billy Elliot (#29) paraded a long line of young dance casualties in “Good Night and Thank You.” (#23) Mamma Mia! went acoustic, performing a sublime Jason Mraz song, “Living High” (#24); Rock of Ages built a number around Kanye West’s “Heartless” featuring the heartbreaking dancing of Angel Reed and Tyrone Jackson(#25) and Gavin Creel and the cast of Hair “tripped” down the Great White Way with a cannabis-influenced medley of favorite Broadway tunes.
Shaking their Moneymakers
In addition to A Steady Rain’s record-breaking fundraising total – driven by the unprecedented generosity and creativity of Jackman and Craig – auctioning off photos, autographed posters and their, now famous, actual tee shirts worn at each performance – this year’s competition ended with the following top-dollar raising shows:
Top Broadway Fundraiser
The Phantom of the Opera
National Touring Shows:
Jersey Boys – Chicago
Jersey Boys – Sherry Tour
Wicked – The Emerald City Tour
Top Tour Fundraiser
Cast members of Memphis (#28) announced the 40 shows that participated in fundraising, but were not able to present at this year’s GYPSY OF THE YEAR Competition. (#27)
Produced by BC/EFA’s Michael Graziano, Scott Tucker and Tom Viola, under the expert direction of Kristin Newhouse and Assistant Director Alex Lyu Volckhausen, this year’s two performances played before over 2,600 members of the Broadway community, fans, BC/EFA supporters and enthusiasts.
With a total 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 support of Associate Producer Trisha Doss, our extraordinary team of stage managers led by Jason Brouillard including Lisa Dawn Cave, Terry Alexander, Tom Capps, Zac Chandler, Bess Marie Glorioso, Bart Kahn, Valerie Lau Kee Lai, Rachel Miller, Alix Clapps, David Sugarman, Jason Trubitt, Laura Wilson and the entire crew at the Palace Theatre.
Finally – and certainly most importantly – BC/EFA is deeply grateful for the generous fundraising efforts and support of all 60Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring shows whose extraordinary work made this year’s grand total possible.