Broadway Bares: Rock Hard!, a luscious, modern-day mix tape of sensual sights and sounds featuring 170 of New York’s sexiest dancers, celebrated its move to a new home on June 22, 2014, by raising $1,386,105 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Honoring iconic music moments and songs from Elvis to Pink, Aerosmith to Prince, the 24th edition of the burlesque extravaganza got a crowd of more than 5,000 people rocking, jumping and cheering for more during two performances at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
The opening number found Matthew Saldivar and Joey Taranto as dads escorting their preteen daughters to a One Direction concert. Longing for the rock concerts of their youth, the pair stepped into a dream world of hard rockers with ripped abs, voluptuous divas and randy roadies. The opening was written by Matthew Sklar and Amanda Green. Director Nick Kenkel, Paula Caselton and Sidney Erik Wright choreographed the number.
The gyrating and twerking Brandon Rubendall mesmerized a sock-hop-happy stage of young men in a tribute to Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, choreographed by Kellen Stancil. Spurning directives to keep his hips in check, Rubendall exploded onto the stage, converting the straight-laced, impressionable men into a sexy chorus of bare-chested – and bare-cheeked – twerkers.
The music of Stevie Nicks served as the soundtrack for a coven of fierce women, led by Heather Lang, who recruited and cast a spell on an innocent Paloma Garcia-Lee. The tables turned when the power shifted to Garcia-Lee, who took Lang and her ladies under her own control. Dontee Kiehn choreography the number.
A booty short-wearing team of airport TSA agents found trouble with one particular passenger, Marine veteran and now model Alex Minsky, who kept setting off their “detector.” After being stripped down by the frisky agents, Minsky was left wearing only a star-spangled jock. The muscled and tattooed Minsky lost his right leg and suffered other extensive injuries after his truck ran over an explosive while he served in Afghanistan. After his recovery, a chance encounter with a professional photographer sparked Minsky’s fast-rising modeling career, fueled by his laid-back attitude toward having a prosthetic leg. In honor of Minsky and in celebration of his Broadway Bares debut, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS made a $10,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. The number, set to Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” was choreographed by Michael Lee Scott.
A rivalry between two cat-themed college mascots, choreographed by Laya Barak, featured acrobatic mascots Callen Bergmann leading the Lions and Judah Frank representing the Tigers. But Chondra L. Profit proved to be the queen of felines as a leather-clad cat woman with a sexy pride of shirtless male panthers. Dancing to Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat,” Profit converted the college cheering squads into street dancers and ultimately tamed the beastly mascots, leading them upstage on leashes.
Adam Perry sensuously guided a tribe of free-living hippies in a hallucinogenic dance set to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” choreographed by Kenkel and Brice Mousset, with aerial choreography by Ryan Lyons. With aerialist Alexander Stabler floating overhead as a loincloth-wearing cherub, gold-winged dancers escorted Perry through the illusion, which also included Perry erotically coupling with Michael Apuzzo from Paul Taylor Dance Company and Josh D. Green of Stephen Petronio Company.
In a mix of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Get Off,” James Harkness seductively led a crew of male dancers in a precision routine choreographed by Wes Veldink. As the back-up dancers salaciously paired up and seductively stripped off each other’s shirts, a blow-pop sucking flirt, Mishay Petronelli, helped Harkness complete his strip, hidden only by his white guitar.
A tribute to Michael Jackson featured Donna Michelle Vaughn recreating many of the King of Pop’s signature moves. Dancing to a sultry re-interpretation of “Billie Jean,” a sextet of shirtless men lifted and carried Vaughn across the stage, slowly removing her costume in a number choreographed by Kenkel.
Dressed as an ornate Elizabethan queen, Alex Ringler, and his mischievious court jester, Cedric Leiba Jr., intimately inspected her majesty’s royal guard in a number choreographed by Peter Gregus. To the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust,” the queen dismissed the soldiers when they couldn’t rise to her expectations until finding that final guard, who – once his uniform had been ripped away – passed inspection.
Tina Turner’s sensual “Private Dancer” provided the perfect soundtrack for stage full of passionate private dancers, led by Charlie Sutton and his “customer,” Lawrence Alexander. Sutton, choreographed by John Alix, stripped from a business suit to a corset and heels as he mercilessly teased Alexander before ripping off his own red, tasseled thong.
The sweet childlike dreams of a teddy bear-clutching Ryan Lyons turned into nightmares set to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as he was pulled into an aerial cage of risqué demons who slowly stripped off his bedtime clothes. Below them, a quartet of acrobatic dancers contorted and twisted in steamy pairings. The number was choreographed by Kenkel and Zach Hensler with aerial choreography by Armando Farfan Jr. and Lyons.
A group therapy session for the sexually repressed turning into a bawdy lesson in the hands – and body – of “doctor” Joshua Buscher. Set to The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” Buscher taught his willing pupils how to open their minds and get their own sexy back in humorously unconventional ways. The number was choreographed by Jim Cooney.
In two comedy skits, Lesli Margherita played the gruff stage door security guard “Dale,” who worked to keep interlopers from sneaking backstage. Surprise special guest James Franco created quite the stir, which ultimately required a full-body frisking from drag diva Bianca Del Rio. Tony Award nominee Andy Karl and Patrick Page were forced by “Dale” to go shirtless to gain admission while Tony winner Alan Cumming, joined by two scantily friends, sailed through without trouble.
Adding to the live concert energy of Rock Hard!, Constantine Maroulis performed a stirring rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Morgan James and Syndee Winters brought the show to its raucous finale, pumping up the audience with Broadway Bares’ version of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Closing the evening, two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber led the show’s famous “rotation” where the entire cast stormed on stage to receive individual tips from audience members.
Echoing a message that has been a part of Broadway Bares from the beginning, Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who created Broadway Bares, reminded the audience: “Safe sex is hot sex. We can best love each other by always remembering to protect each other. Then what we do together will indeed make a difference.”
Broadway Bares: Rock Hard! was directed by Kenkel, who also directed last year’s Broadway Bares: United Strips of America. It was produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, led by Producing Director Michael Graziano and J. Jason Daunter.
Presenting sponsor M∙A∙C VIVA Glam delivered a $300,000 check, presented by Jennifer Balbier, M∙A∙C senior vice president of global product development and M∙A∙C AIDS Fund board member. Balbier also saluted the extraordinary skills of more than 60 M∙A∙C make-up artists who volunteered on the show.
More than 275 people participated in Strip-a-thon, an online fundraising competition among Bares cast, crew and supporters, raising a record $429,153. The team of dancers representing the opening number and finale raised the most money per person, followed by The Rolling Stones and Queen teams.
Ricky Schroeder was honored as the top individual fundraiser competing in the Strip-a-thon, generating $13,500 in donations. He was closely followed by Ben Ryan with $11,510 and Cody Lancaster $10,610. Runners-up among the Strip-a-thon women were Madeline Reed with $6,464 and Paloma Garcia-Lee with $5,301.
Eight additional fundraisers received special recognition for individually raising more than $5,000: Erik Altemus, Steve Bratton, James Brown III, Andrew Glaszek, Peter Gregus, Olga Karmansky, Johnny Milani and Mark MacKillop.
Sieber also paid tribute to Graziano, who was producing his last Broadway Bares after 20 years with Broadway Cares. Graziano, who wasn’t participating in the competition, was the top overall fundraiser, raising an astounding, all-time record of $64,110.
Broadway Cares thanks the more than 500 volunteers of every stripe, variety and department whose generosity of time and talent make such an intricate and complicated event like Broadway Bares possible.
As production stage manager, BC/EFA’s Valerie Lai led an incredible stage management team of 30 men and women. Their tireless efforts were bolstered by an outstanding community of choreographers, designers, technicians and volunteers onstage, backstage, under the stage, upstairs in the VIP area and front of house.
Special thanks to this year’s Broadway Bares photographers: Jenny Anderson, Jeff Eason, Kevin Thomas Garcia, Ryan Mueller, Daniel Roberts, Jonathan Tichler and Tomas Vrzala.