Broadway Bares: Top Bottoms of Burlesque, the unrivaled evening of sexy striptease, celebrated its 25th sizzling edition on June 21, 2015, with a colorful cast of classic characters, from ripped dancers and cheeky choreographers to studly stagehands and sumptuous showgirls.
This year’s thrilling extravaganza offered a bodacious Broadway Bares spin to the classic Broadway musical 42nd Street, the story of a bright-eyed ingenue looking to make it big on the Great White Way.
Broadway Bares‘ two-time Tony Award-winning creator and executive producer Jerry Mitchell returned to the director’s chair with co-director, Nick Kenkel, who expertly helmed previous two editions of Broadway Bares. The result was an electrifying onstage spectacular that shook up New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom in two shows featuring 222 of New York’s sexiest and most talented dancers.The evening, which featured special guest performances by Laverne Cox, Bianca Del Rio, Harvey Fierstein, Lesli Margherita and Christopher Sieber, raised a record-shattering $1,598,501 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The show-within-a-show Broadway Bares began with a curtain-raising reveal of 100 beautiful, bouncing booties, all auditioning for a part in the next Broadway hit, “Top Bottoms of Burlesque.” As the delectable dance captain Callan Bergmann cut want-to-be bottoms, Fierstein, fabulously dressed in drag, introduced a “parade of asses,” a pageant of bottoms colorfully representing each season in elegant showgirl costumes designed by two-time Tony winner Gregg Barnes. The opening number, choreographed by Mitchell and Kenkel, was written by Andrew Lippa and Hunter Bell.
As the starry-eyed “Petey Sawyer” from Allentown, Nick Adams arrived too late for the audition and was relegated for the remainder of the show to find his own way on to a Broadway stage.
Leading lady Del Rio was summoned to the stage by Sieber who advanced the show’s storyline as Broadway producer “JM.” Del Rio showed true stage diva-ness in “Shadow Play,” revealing her inner cougar by leading a dozen muscular chorus boys through an erotic shadow dance, choreographed by Michael Lee Scott. But her bows took a devastating turn when she slipped on a wet stage and “broke her ass.” Del Rio’s injury triggered a search for her replacement as the next “top bottom of Broadway,” a search led by Margherita as an over-the-top casting assistant.
Petey’s turn to shine finally arrived in the penultimate number as “JM” picks him to be the star of his show. Adams made the most of the spotlight, shedding a top hat and tails to reveal Broadway’s new “top bottom” in a hard-driving, show-stopping number choreographed by Kenkel.In a special number featuring veterans of Bares past, three of Broadway Bares’ favorite women – Jen Cody, Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Rachelle Rak – helped “Petey” find his gimmick to be noticed as a “top bottom.” In a tribute to the first 24 editions of Bares, 10 of its most iconic lead strips returned for the “hot vintage booty” alumni number, choreographed by Rak and also featuring Kristine Bendul, Timothy Bish, Joshua Buscher-West, Katy Grenfell, Sandor DeGrazia, Grasan Kingsberry, Daniel Robinson, Michael Lee Scott and Ryan Worsing.
The evening included other numbers that paid homage to the sizzling glamour of Broadway.
A corset-wearing Cox delighted the audience in a fierce role reversal of the infamous casting couch, turning the tables on smoldering casting director Casey Lee Ross and his bevy of trench wearing beauties, choreographed by Kellen Stancil.
Salacious stagehands got their chance to strut their stuff in a testosterone-fueled acrobatic “load in” choreographed by Brice Mousset. Josh Daniel Green led a tech crew focused on pulling ropes and tearing off each other’s clothes while aerialist Ryan Lyons spun and gyrated overhead.
Two choreographers with distinctly different styles faced off in a heart-thumping strip led by Judah Frank and Julius Anthony Rubio and choreographed by Laya Barak.
A sizzling Broadway Bares version of a sitzprobe – the first meeting between the orchestra and a show’s cast – found conductor Holly Ann Butler being artistically stripped by her musically costumed orchestra in a number choreographed by Sydney Erik Wright.
Flamboyancy reached new heights with rainbow-colored, plumage-covered “dames” that artfully pranced as Alexander Stabler and his fellow aerialists twisted high above the stage forming giant glittering human chandeliers. Peter Gregus provided choreography with aerial choreography by Armando Farfan Jr.
An energetic tap dance choreographed by Jim Cooney enthralled the audience with “He’s in the Money,” a modern nod to42nd Street’s iconic “We’re in the Money.” A bevy of lady tappers hit the jackpot as they stripped producer Patrick Boyd of his tuxedo.
The high-energy finale, choreographed by Kenkel, featured Joey Taranto with Ashley Loren and Lisa Ramey leading the entire company in a fist-pumping tribute to the 25 editions of Broadway Bares.
Closing the evening, Sieber led the show’s famous “rotation,” where the entire cast danced freestyle to encourage individual appreciation tips from the audience. This year’s rotation added $24,912 to the record-breaking total.
Broadway Bares was created by Mitchell in 1992 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. The show has now raised $14.3 million for Broadway Cares.
A longtime friend and supporter of BC/EFA, two-time Tony winner Judith Light congratulated Mitchell on the anniversary of Broadway Bares and thanked him at the show’s close for “making a difference for people who don’t have the access to the services and money that we often taken for granted.” Light also reminded the audience: “Safe sex is hot sex. And we can best love each other by protecting and taking care of each other.” Kenkel joined Light and the entire company on stage to salute the choreographers and thank the cast and crew.
This year more than 300 people participated in Stripathon, an online fundraising competition among Bares cast, crew and supporters. Stripathon raised an astonishing $581,225, breaking last year’s previous record of $429,153.Jennifer Balbier, M∙A∙C senior vice president of global product development and M∙A∙C AIDS Fund board member, delivered a $300,000 check on behalf of M∙A∙C VIVA Glam, Bares’ presenting sponsor. Balbier also acknowledged the extraordinary skills of more than 70 M∙A∙C makeup artists who volunteered on the show.
The top fundraising teams, based on an average amount raised per person were the casts of “Shadow Play,” “He’s in the Money” and the opening number, “Take It from the Top.”
Nine additional fundraisers received special recognition for individually raising more than $5,000: Adam Chandler, Jon Cooper, Mark MacKillop, Johnny Milani, Madeline Reed, Daniel Roberts, Christopher Sieber, Scott Tucker and Jason Adam Viarengo.Ben Ryan was honored as the top individual fundraiser, generating $17,095 in donations. Runners-up among the Stripathon women were Holly Ann Butler with $9,751 and Laya Barak with $7,745. Runners-up on the male side were Ricky Schroeder, raising $16,630, and Steve Bratton with $10,420.
View the program from Broadway Bares: Top Bottoms of BurlesqueBroadway Cares thanks volunteers of every stripe, variety and department whose generosity of time and talent make such an intricate and complicated event like Broadway Bares possible. Production Stage Manager Eric Insko led a team of 11 stage managers with more than 700 other volunteers behind the scenes helping to create the show. Joel Shier served as lighting designer; Nevin Steinberg handled sound design; scenic designers were David Arsenault and Steven Royal.
Videos by Mo Brady
Photos by Billy Bustamente, Kevin Thomas Garcia, Peter Gibbons, Ryan Mueller, Daniel Roberts, Monica Simoes, Matt Stocke and Jonathan Tichler