Broadway’s hottest dancers and two explosively responsive audiences came together for a fierce and steamy evening of fun and sensational striptease at Broadway Bares: Game Night, this year’s record-breaking edition of the annual spectacular.
Produced by and benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Broadway Bares: Game Night raised $1,875,090 with two standing-room-only performances on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
Stripathon, the online fundraiser led by the show’s cast and crew, raised a record-shattering $953,153, marking the third year in a row that Stripathon was the single largest contributor to the grand total.
This year’s Broadway Bares gave your ordinary game night a tantalizing twist with unparalleled striptease production numbers inspired by beloved board games, video games and arcade games.
An unplanned stop at a mysterious mansion led to the evening of frisky and festive game play that included sunken battleships, conjured spirits, a not-so-old maid, high-flying flashlight tag, a surprise video from Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong and special guest appearances by the cast of the hit Broadway revival The Boys in the Band.
To start the show, four friends out on an adventure – recording artist Mila Jam, The Phantom of the Opera’s Jay Armstrong Johnson, The Marvelous Wonderettes’ Marissa Rosen and The Lion King’s L. Steven Taylor stumbled on the mansion and its delightfully devious maid and butler, played by Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita and SpongeBob SquarePants’ Wesley Taylor.
For the Clue-inspired opening number, the four were transformed into scantily clad Bares versions of the game’s iconic characters: now dubbed Miss Harlett, Colonel Must Hard, Mrs. Pee Pee Cock and Professor Plums. Margherita and Taylor then invited the foursome – and the audience – to explore the mansion as games unfolded in each risqué room.
The number was choreographed by this year’s directors, Nick Kenkel, who returned to direct Broadway Bares for the sixth year, and Laya Barak, an accomplished dancer and choreographer whose work has appeared in the last four editions of Broadway Bares. The opening number was written by Troy Britton Johnson, with music by Lynne Shankel and lyrics by Amanda Greene.
In the show’s finale, Margherita revealed that she was actually the mastermind behind the mysterious gaming mansion, powered by beauty and brains. And to reinforce the point that women run The Game of Life, she invited Broadway leading ladies Alison Luff, Ryann Redmond and Rema Webb of Escape to Margaritaville; Kirstin Maldonado of the Grammy-winning Pentatonix and a recent Kinky Boots star; Tony nominee Ashley Park of Mean Girls; Chondra Profit of The Lion King and Lauren Zakrin of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Ultimately, the entire cast of more than 200 dazzling dancers flooded the stage, providing an electrifying conclusion to the evening’s game play.
The Boys in the Band’s Matt Bomer, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Michael Benjamin Washington and Tuc Watkins appeared as special guests and were challenged with some tantalizing trivia questions. For each incorrect answer by the cast, Carver had to strip off an article of clothing. The Boys may have lost, but the audience surely won when Carver was stripped to nothing but his cowboy hat.
The evening’s fun-and-games adventure included:
Sexy seamen were ready to sink battleships and strip to their skivvies in a number choreographed by Barak and Jonathan Lee. Led by Robert Walters of Hamilton and Juan Zapata, this explosive and hardcore hip hop piece featured an all-male ensemble of irresistible sailors running tight ships.
A birthday party for Kinky Boots’ Joe Beauregard found his frolicsome friends playing a rousingly sketchy game of “Striptionary.” Each time an article of clothing was drawn, Beauregard’s handy friends stripped it off him. This playfully provocative number, choreographed by Michael Lee Scott, ultimately left a smiling Beauregard in his proverbial “birthday suit.”
A Ouija-playing Spencer Clark of Frozen conjured up something mythically gorgeous in the form of aerialist Reed Kelly, who spun and flew above the stage. The poetic pair passionately performed the ballet-infused romantic choreography by Kellen Stancil, supported by an all-male chorus of alluring spirits. The aerial work was directed by Mathieu Leopold.
The classic board game Candy Land got a spicy twist with Frozen’s Donald Jones Jr. as a luscious Lord Licorice. Joined by fellow game characters Ehizoje Azeke, Escape to Margaritaville’s Justin Keats and Kinky Boots’ Ricky Schroeder and backed up by an ensemble of eye candy, the fabulous trio unwrapped Jones down to his gumdrops. The scrumptious number was choreographed by Al Blackstone.
Though Matthew Skrincosky played the central character in an Indiana Jones video game, there’s no doubt women cracked the whip when indomitable Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical arrived with an ensemble of fierce, fabulous women. DeBose leveled up as she commanded Skrincosky across the stage and stripped him down to his joystick. The number was choreographed by Olivia Cipolla.
The lights went down and the clothes came off in a rambunctious round of flashlight tag that enveloped the entire audience, led by Javier Perez and choreographed by John Alix. Eight aerialists from Las Vegas’ acclaimed Living Art of Armando, choreographed by Armando Farfan Jr., added a flashlight-fueled aerial routine above the dancers on stage and in the crowd, immersed on every level of Hammerstein Ballroom.
“Old Maid” Karine Plantadit was dismissed by a full house of younger Kings, Queens, Jacks and Aces when she initially tried to keep pace with outdated dance moves. However, Plantadit proved she had a card up her sleeve when she stripped down to reveal her inner sultry, sexy seductress. Choreographer Nathan Peck upped the ante as the card-playing chorus supported her winning transformation.
Sexy patient Nicholas Cunningham of The Phantom of the Opera was just what doctor Kali Grinder of Frozen ordered in choreographer Charlie Sutton’s homage to Operation. Grinder gave Cunningham a full-body physical, alongside her team of sinewy male nurses. The men flipped her across the stage and unveiled the vixen hiding underneath.
Pinball wizard Henry Byalikov of Dancing with the Stars transformed into a skinball stripper when futuristic goddess Jena VanElslander emerged from the arcade game. VanElslander entranced and seduced Byalikov and an ensemble of giddy gamers in the number choreographed by Richard Hinds.
Celebrating Parcheesi’s regal status as the royal game of India, choreographer Lisa Stevens delivered a high-spirited Bollywood number, led by Julius Rubio as a charmed snake.
Special pre-show choreography to entertain VIP donors was created by Sidney Erik Wright.
The show’s famous “rotation,” where the entire cast danced to encourage tips from the audience, followed each show. This year’s rotation raised an additional $28,509.
Tony-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who created Broadway Bares in 1992 and serves as executive producer, and two-time Tony winner Judith Light thanked the audience at the show’s close. Light reminded the audience: “We are living in challenging and complicated times. But as I look out at this beautiful audience, I know our voices will not be silenced. We must remember that safe is hot sex. Know your status. Testing and treatment equals prevention. Undetectable equals untransmittable. We can best love each other by protecting each other.”
This year’s top Stripathon fundraiser was Mark MacKillop, who raised $45,660, the most ever by a Bares performer. He was followed by the male runners up Taylor at $30,045 and Schroeder at $26,454. The female runners up were Barak at $12,791 and Katie Thrasher at $12,493.
Presenting sponsor M∙A∙C VIVA Glam delivered a $200,000 check, delivered by Sandy Joseph and Janene Machado. The pair saluted the extraordinary skills of the more than 70 M∙A∙C makeup artists who volunteered to create the show’s incredible looks.
Production Stage Manager Johnny Milani led a team of 34 stage managers with more than 700 volunteers behind the scenes to create the show. Aaron Hamilton served as Game Night’s associate director. Joel Shier was lighting designer; Nevin Steinberg handled sound design; and the show’s scenic designer was David Arsenault. Karl Ruckdeschel handled costume coordination; Kevin Thomas Garcia coordinated hair and wig design; and Caite Hevner managed projection coordination. Troy Britton Johnson wrote the show’s book.
Broadway Bares was created by Mitchell as a way to raise money to help those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. In its first year, Mitchell and seven of his friends danced on a New York City bar and raised $8,000. Last year, the event raised $1,568,114. To date, Broadway Bares has now raised $19.1 million for Broadway Cares.
Photos by Curtis Brown, Matthew Murphy, Daniel Roberts, Jonathan Tichler and Evan Zimmerman
Video by Mo Brady and Víctor Rodríguez