A spectacular romp around the world with 192 of NYC’s sexiest dancers and two wild and worldly standing-room-only audiences led to a sensational evening of record-breaking modern-day burlesque at Broadway Bares: Take Off.
Produced by and benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Broadway Bares: Take Off raised $2,006,192 at two performances on Sunday, June 16, 2019, at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
Stripathon, the online fundraiser led by the show’s cast and crew, raised a record-shattering $1,066,129. This marks the first time in the fundraiser’s history that Stripathon passed the $1 million mark, and the fourth year in a row it was the single largest contributor to the event’s grand total.
This year’s Broadway Bares put the lust in wanderlust, offering a tantalizing twist on world travel. The show celebrated Carnival and Day of the Dead, explored the strength and sensuality of Spain and Japan, teased the potential shenanigans of long flights and triumphantly landed at the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the birth of the modern LGBTQ-rights movement.
Guided by an extra-zesty Bares Air pilot and steward, two gay couples set to take off and strip down on an international adventure. Tony Award nominee Ashley Park and Nathan Lee Graham navigated the evening as our captain and flight attendant.
The younger, naive couple was played by Jay Armstrong Johnson and Christian Dante White; the established dynamic duo featured Stephen DeRosa and two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber.
The opening was choreographed by this year’s director, Laya Barak. The number was written by Troy Britton Johnson, with music by Lynne Shankel and lyrics by Amanda Greene.
The evening featured a tempting around-the-world trek.
A Day of the Dead celebration uncovered a salacious love triangle when a man summoned his scorned ex-wife at the “ofrenda,” or ceremonial altar. Ian Paget battled an otherworldly Khadija Tariyan and his new-found love for Judah Frank amid an ensemble of scintillating skeletons. Barak choreographed the hard-hitting, spirit-raising number.
A brief delay on the tarmac in the heat of the day caused the airport’s rugged, all-male ground crew to sweat through their shift – and their clothes. Adam Perry led a team of buff baggage handlers, choreographed by Andrew Turteltaub.
On a sultry, salsa-infused escape to España, Nina Lafarga attempted to pin down Henry Byalikov in a spirited taming of the bull, joined by strapping matadors and seductive women. Lafarga ultimately succeeded, leaving Byalikov stripped down, though far from tamed in choreography by Luis Salgado.
In Amsterdam’s libidinous Red Light District, Carleigh Bettiol and Jennifer Florentino found love and lust amid the smoky glow of this all-female number, choreographed by Olivia Cipolla. Aerialists from Las Vegas’ acclaimed Living Art of Armando, choreographed by Armando Farfan Jr., added an alluring airborne element as the women twirled sensually on sky-high poles.
A frisky flight proved Bares Air is the sexiest ride in the friendly skies. Steven Trumon Gray invited passengers and flight crew alike to join the Mile High Club. The naughty number, choreographed by Ray Mercer, left everyone so breathless the cast needed airline oxygen masks to breathe as they performed in the not-always-upright but definitely locked position.
A vigorous and vivacious Carnival party was led by Marija Abney, Afra Hines and Briana Reed. Backed up by muscular men in colorful garb, the threesome served up fierce and fiery performances to honor the traditions of Brazil, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Choreographed by Broadway Bares associate director Jonathan Lee, the women stripped down until little was left but their spectacular feathered headdresses.
A runway fashion show in Paris transformed into a fierce vogue ball-inspired face off choreographed by Justin Prescott. The dynamic piece featured a corset-clad Lawrence Alexander and Tori Reneé, who led her voguing team to victory. The incomparable Tony winner Billy Porter caused the audience to erupt in deafening cheers when he stepped out to announce the victor in a fabulously purple-plumed and shimmering top hat and long coat.
With a little help from Graham and flight crew members Holly Ann Butler and Elliott Mattox, passenger Constantine Rousouli found a rousing cure for his fear of flying when the bustling cabin turned into a disco-infused party. Emmy Award nominee Al Blackstone choreographed the light-hearted, fantasy-inducing number.
Warrior Sabrina Imamura proved she didn’t need saving from a sea of sexy samurais as she powerfully strutted in sky-high heels. Under her reign, the cast rhythmically clacked traditional Japanese fans as part of captivating choreography by Kellin Stancil.
Taurean Everett brought the heat to Burning Man, fueling the festival’s artistic and creative energy with colorful striptease choreographed by Michael Lee Scott. Farfan’s aerialists set the venue ablaze with LED lights and fantastical costumes, while dancers filled the stage and mezzanine with glowing props and energetic moves.
A celebratory and historically important arrival at Stonewall Inn served as the culmination of the couples’ vacation. Recording artist and LGBTQ activist Mila Jam and Gabriel Hyman led peaceful and empowered protests with poignant choreography and storytelling by John Alix. The cast lifted each other up, both physically and metaphorically, in the joyous number that celebrated those who paved the way for the LGBTQ community.
The finale ushered in World Pride in NYC, choreographed by Sidney Erik Wright. Alex Newell and Ryann Redmond brought the house down with a show-stopping vocal performance of David Guetta’s “When Love Takes Over.” The adapted lyrics assured the evening’s travelers, “You have found your pride.” The entire cast of dancers joined them onstage for an electric conclusion to the evening.
Some pre-flight fun featured a feisty video starring Todrick Hall, getting the audience lit and lively for the performances that followed.
Special pre-show choreography to entertain VIP donors was created by Hope Easterbrook.
Tony-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who created Broadway Bares in 1992 serves as executive producer with Nick Kenkel.
Mitchell and Porter thanked the audience at the show’s close. “We will not be stigmatized for the very thing that makes us beautiful,” Porter said. “Let us take care of each other and stay safe and protected in every way we can. What we do together, every move, grind and strip, truly makes a difference.”
Porter then performed the world premiere of his new single “Love Yourself,” which was released Friday. The song launched Bares‘ famous “rotation,” where the entire cast danced to encourage tips from the audience. This year’s rotation raised $25,665.
This year’s top Stripathon fundraiser was Mark MacKillop, who raised $51,755, the most ever by a Bares performer. He was followed by male runners up L. Steven Taylor at $43,529, Josh Cotham at $28,001 and Steve Bratton at $19,397. The female runners up were Butler at $16,505, Katie Thrasher at $13,020 and Marissa Rosen at $12,404. An inspiring 417 people joined in the online fundraising efforts this year.
Presenting sponsor M∙A∙C VIVA Glam delivered a $200,000 check, presented by Cathryn Gluck, Sandy Joseph and Corey Sanders. The trio 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 41 stage managers with more than 700 volunteers behind the scenes to create the show. Lee served as associate director. Joel Shier was lighting designer; Nick Borisjuk handled sound design; and the show’s scenic designer was C.J. Howard. Jeffrey Wallach handled costume coordination; Kevin Thomas Garcia coordinated hair and wig design; and Jason Lee Courson and Caite Hevner managed video coordination. 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 $1,875,090. To date, Broadway Bares has now raised $21.2 million for Broadway Cares.
Photos by Billy Bustamante, Daniel T. Gramkee, Michael Kushner, Daniel Roberts, Jonathan Tichler and Evan Zimmerman
Video by Mo Brady, Reel Time Video Production and Víctor Rodríguez
This Year’s Program