Broadway Bares: Strip U Makes the Grade with Sizzling Striptease
A spirited audience of thousands went back to campus with stripped-down collegians who offered a sexy lacrosse scrimmage, a Pavlovian psychology experiment, a pumped-up pep rally and a fierce feminist studies class at Broadway Bares: Strip U, this year’s edition of the annual highly choreographed, highly produced striptease spectacular.
Produced by and benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Broadway Bares: Strip U raised $1,568,114 in two performances on June 18, 2017, at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
Stripathon, the online fundraiser led by the show’s cast and crew, raised a jaw-dropping and record-breaking $686,135 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, marking the second year in a row and only second time in Broadway Bares history Stripathon was the single largest contributor to the grand total.
This year’s Broadway Bares stripped away the fears of freshmen and saluted seniors as a journey across the Strip U campus took us to a seductive observatory, exploding chemistry lab, flirty fine arts class, frat party-turned-Greek god fantasy, a lesson in stiletto strutting and Havana, Cuba, for a sizzling semester studying abroad.
Two-time Tony Award nominee and seven-time Emmy winner Allison Janney started the show with a video invitation as Strip U‘s president, offering sexy salutations, a campus history and words of wisdom: “Our motto reminds us of our core values every day: Honorem, Integritas, Nuditas, Erectus.”
The show opened with Broadway favorite Jay Armstrong Johnson learning he was accepted to Strip U, the only college where clothing is optional and striptease is always in the curriculum. As the dean of admissions at Strip U, Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita, flanked by some of Broadway’s best student bodies, welcomed Johnson to his new home for the next four years. The welcoming, diverse campus proudly stripped down, celebrating self love and acceptance.
The opening number was choreographed by Nick Kenkel, who returned to direct Broadway Bares for the fifth year and created the Strip U concept. The opening number was written by Hunter Bell and Wade Dooley, with music by Matt Sklar and lyrics by Amanda Green.
The patriarchy was stripped apart in Strip U‘s feminist studies class, which lifted the audience into a rousing frenzy to deliver the loudest cheers of the night. With J. Harrison Ghee as its gender-nonconforming guide, the number celebrated the historical fight of women – from suffragettes to American women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II to the rise of Pantsuit Nation. Choreographed by John Alix, the fiery performance of 20 women was backed by larger-than-life images of women through years standing up and speaking out before landing on a modern-day protest sign that declared, “The Future is Female.”
The traditional pep rally got a significant step up when The Lion King‘s L. Steven Taylor and Jelani Remy, who play Mufasa and Simba, led a crew of increasingly scantily-clad students in an energetic step dance. The pair showed off the pep in their step while acrobatically tumbling across the stage, as the step team stripped to shiny booty shorts. The number was choreographed by Laya Barak.
A studly psychology student got an unforgettable lesson in Pavlov’s dogs when the strapping Josh Drake turned into trainer to a class of obedient male classmates in a drool-worthy dance. In full command of his pack, Drake walked the harness-clad mass of male virility down the runway in the number choreographed by Sidney Erik Wright.
A shirts-versus-skins lacrosse scrimmage heated up the stage when Anastasia‘s Kyle Brown coached a crew of sweaty, muscled men. Ericka Hunter and Katie Webber gave the game co-ed flair as they strutted and stripped their protective gear in the athletic number. The scrimmage was choreographed by Charlie Sutton.
The sky filled with spellbinding stars when 10 aerialists from Las Vegas’ acclaimed Living Art of Armando performed a high-flying and breathtaking aerial dance at Strip U‘s observatory, staged by Bares favorite Armando Farfan Jr. Below the celestial constellations, Josh Daniel Green, Kar Will and a team of Broadway Bares dancers stayed grounded for a ballet-infused romance, choreographed by Kenkel.
A fine arts sketch class, choreographed by Richard J. Hinds, featured Lockhart Brownlie displaying model misbehavior as the class’ nude muse. Led by teacher Holly Ann Butler and surrounded by fawning females, Brownlie and the ladies stripped down Butler as she and Brownlie bravely bared it all.
A toga party turned into a Grecian celebration on the stage – and above it – as partying college students transformed into ancient gods and goddesses complete with angelic aerialists dangling in silks. Daniel Lynn Evans, with glittering gods Dave August, Callan Bergmann and Christopher Trepinski, led the number, choreographed by Paul Stancato. Above, the togas transformed into aerial silk as Jen James and Crista Marie Jackson displayed exquisite artistry and ability midair in choreography by Bobby Hedglin-Taylor.
Transgender recording artist Mila Jam taught Pump 101, a uniquely Strip U class that definitely put the sex back in the heel. A bookish Paula Caselton transformed into voracious vixen after Jam gave her a crash course in stiletto-strutting, resulting in a stripped-down Caselton confidently commanding the class. The number was choreographed by Kellen Stancil.
Michael Apuzzo and Heather Lee Bair’s science experiment, choreographed by Michael Lee Scott, had unexpectedly sexy results when the beefy Sean Burroughs emerged as their chemistry creation. The chemists fought over him as they stripped Burroughs to nearly nothing in a tantalizing tug-of-war.
As Strip U students enjoyed a their study abroad excursion in Havana, they stumbled into a club of seductive locals, including Rosie Lani Fiedelman, who lured well-toned tourist Jeremey Adam Rey into her den. The pair led a steamy, Latin salsa, choreographed by Sekou McMiller.
Internet personality Randy Rainbow and On Your Feet‘s Ana Villafañe made special guest appearances as a psychology professor and a foreign exchange student.
In the finale, Instagram sensation and star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tom Lenk, playing a pesky Department of Education auditor who appeared throughout the show, finally saw the Strip U way and offered the university full federal funding. The entire cast of more than 180 dancers flooded the stage, providing an electrifying finale to the show.
The show’s famous “rotation,” where the entire cast danced to encourage individual appreciation tips from the audience, followed each show. This year’s rotation raised an additional $22,038.
Tony-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who created Broadway Bares in 1992 and serves as executive producer, and Tony winner Judith Light thanked the audience at the show’s close. “We must take the power of our diverse communities and dedicate our energies to the importance of taking care of ourselves and each other,” Light said. Light and Mitchell also reminded the audience: “Safe sex is hot sex. We can best love each other by protecting each other.”
Presenting sponsor M∙A∙C VIVA Glam delivered a $300,000 check, delivered by Nancy Mahon, M∙A∙C senior vice president and executive director of M∙A∙C AIDS Fund. Mahon also saluted the extraordinary skills of more than 70 M∙A∙C makeup artists who volunteered to create the show’s incredible looks.
This year’s top Stripathon fundraiser was L. Steven Taylor, who raised a remarkable $18,198. He was closely followed by Holly Butler at $15,078. Rounding out the top five were Steve Bratton with $14,198, Richard JMV Schieffer with $12,051 and Laya Barak with $10,174.
Broadway Bares: Strip U was produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, led by Producing Director Valerie Lau-Kee Lai and an extraordinary staff. Production Stage Manager Matt DiCarlo led a team of 47 stage managers with more than 700 other volunteers behind the scenes to create the show. Aaron Hamilton served as Strip U‘s assistant director. Joel Shier was lighting designer; Nevin Steinberg handled sound design; and the show’s scenic designer was Jason Lee Courson. Hunter Bell and Wade Dooley 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. To date, Broadway Bares has now raised $17.4 million for Broadway Cares.
In addition to presenting sponsor M∙A∙C VIVA Glam, Broadway Bares received generous support from BC/EFA corporate partner United Airlines.
Photos by Billy Bustamante, Kevin Thomas Garcia, Daniel Roberts, Matthew Murphy, Matthew Stocke, Jonathan Tichler, Evan Zimmerman
Video by Reel Time Video Production; highlights edited by Mo Brady