Fans Find Their Happy Place at Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction

Broadway’s Happy Place, filled with theatrical treasures, encounters with stars and exclusive auction experiences, welcomed legions of theater lovers from near and far as the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction returned Sunday, October 1, 2023.

The 37th annual edition of the biggest day for Broadway fans, produced by and benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, raised a record-breaking $1,237,179.

The day featured 55 tables of memorable theatrical treasures, 221 live and silent auctions lots offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences and rare collectibles, and 41 of Broadway’s brightest stars signing autographs and taking selfies (not counting the thrillingly unexpected encounters on the street or at tables).

This year’s astounding fundraising will provide meals and medication, health care and hope for all in entertainment and the performing arts, as well as those living with HIV/AIDS or facing other debilitating illnesses in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

Among the countless distinctive and delightful items that could only be found at the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction were one-of-a-kind custom satchels handmade by Six’s wardrobe department that mirrored the queens’ iconic costumes, larger-than-life posters from Fiddler on the Roof: In Yiddish and KPOP towering well over 6 feet tall and a broom used onstage in Mrs. Doubtfire.

The Broadway shows that filled the streets with posters, props, Playbills and more were & Juliet; Aladdin; Back to the Future: The Musical; A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical; Hadestown; Hamilton; Here Lies Love; The Lion King; Kimberly Akimbo; Moulin Rouge! The Musical; Six; Some Like It Hot; Sweeney Todd; Water for Elephants and Wicked, plus special tables honoring Dear Evan Hansen, The Phantom of the Opera and the 40th anniversary of the original cast of La Cage aux Folles. The Curtain Call table sold treasures from shows gone but not forgotten, including for colored girls…; Funny Girl and New York, New York.

The tables at this year’s market raised $552,549, led again by the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers with an all-time table record of $78,671 – blowing past the record the association set last year by nearly $30,000.

The Top 10 tables were:

Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers$78,671
Telecharge and The Shubert Organization$28,746
TDF’s Pik-a-Tkt$24,212
Sweeney Todd$23,617
United Scenic Artists$20,951
The Phantom of the Opera and Michael Crawford International Fan Association$18,436
Moulin Rouge! The Musical$17,055
Kimberly Akimbo$13,853
Some Like It Hot$13,466

The day concluded with the grand live auction, which also set a record this year, raising an astonishing $493,500. The previous record was $381,450 set in 2017.

The most popular live auction lot was a business-class trip to London, courtesy of Broadway Cares’ official airline United, to see three West End shows and meet the legendary Bernadette Peters and Lea Salonga after seeing them star in Sondheim’s Old Friends. When the auctioneer’s hammer ultimately fell, the bidding for this lot had reached a staggering $32,000.

The second-most popular lot was the opportunity to take home prolific lighting designer Jules Fisher’s Tony Award for Dancin’, as well as rare memorabilia from Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon and the legendary 1978 original cast. The lot raised an impressive $21,000. Another “Popular” lot was the opportunity to conduct the exit music at Wicked, watch the show from the orchestra pit and go backstage to meet Glinda and Elphaba, which raised $20,000 “For Good.”

Opening night tickets to 12 of this season’s new shows raised a spectacular $32,750.  Barry Manilow’s Harmony – with an exclusive invitation to the after party – topped the opening nights, raising $7,000. The show was followed by $4,250 for the opening night of the revival of The Wiz and $4,000 for The Notebook.

The live auction started with a celebration of the 40th anniversary of La Cage aux Folles. Four unique auction lots of memorabilia, including one featuring a quilt handmade by Tony-winning playwright Harvey Fierstein and another offering the original production’s Tony Award for Best Musical, raised $40,500. To wrap up the special lots, more than 50 members from the show’s original Broadway and national touring productions circled the auction to sing a rousing rendition of “The Best of Times,” which brought the Times Square audience to its feet.

Broadway and television favorite Bryan Batt, who just concluded his starring run in Off-Broadway’s Pay the Writer the night before, hosted the live auction, alongside charismatic and Broadway-loving auctioneer Nick Nicholson.

Earlier in the day in Shubert Alley, Back to the Future: The Musical’s Jelani Remy joined returning auction favorites Todd Buonopane and Michael Goddard to host the silent auction, which raised $177,159. The top-selling lot was a “Wait For It” musical phrase from Hamilton, handwritten and signed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which raised $12,500. Other popular lots were the monkey music box from The Phantom of the Opera signed by Andrew Lloyd Webber; the Genie’s prop lamp from Aladdin signed by James Monroe Iglehart and Michael James Scott; and a Hadestown opening night Playbill signed by the cast and paired with a hair piece worn onstage by Amber Gray.

In addition to exploring the sea of treasures at the tables and auctions, fans met their favorite Broadway stars at the Autograph Table and Photo Booth.

The Broadway favorites who signed memorabilia and took selfies were David Abeles, Eric Anderson, Philippe Arroyo, Sonya Balsara, Danny Burstein, David Byrne, DeMarius Copes, Lorna Courtney, Charlotte d’Amboise, Kevin Del Aguila, John Dossett, Claybourne Elder, Kim Exum, Harvey Fierstein, Steve Haggard, Ann Harada, Vincent Jamal Hooper, Elijah Rhea Johnson, Cherry Jones, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, McKenzie Kurtz, Melanie La Barrie, Beth Leavel, Casey Likes, Jose Llana, Brittney Mack, Michael Maliakel, Kimberly Marable, Alli Mauzey, Howard McGillin, Bonnie Milligan, Bebe Neuwirth, Lauren Patten, Michele Pawk, Jelani Remy, Austin Scott, Dennis Stowe, Paulo Szot, L. Steven Taylor, Michael Urie and Ben Jackson Walker.

The effervescent duo of Jim Caruso, host of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland, and Ben Cameron, host of Broadway Sessions at the Green Room 42, served as emcees.

In addition to the theatrical treasures from Broadway and beyond offered in the theater district, special “Fleabay” bundles online in Broadway Cares’ eBay store offered unique memorabilia for fans who were not able to attend in person. FleaBay raised $13,971.

The Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction is one of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ longest-held traditions. The event had its humble beginnings more than three decades ago with two tables set up by cast members of A Chorus Line outside their stage door in Shubert Alley. Now, the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction is one of the most anticipated events of the season for theater lovers.

Last year’s event raised a record $1,043,825. Since 1987, the 37 editions of the event have raised more than $18.7 million.

The Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction is supported by Broadway Cares corporate sponsors The New York Times andUnited Airlines.

Photos by Kayleen Bertrand, Michael Hull and Rebecca J. Michelson
Video by Víctor Rodríguez & Edlyn González; Video editing by Isabella Danzi