The 30th annual Easter Bonnet Competition, celebrating six weeks of fundraising by 58 Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies, raised a record-shattering $5,528,568, the largest grand total in Broadway Cares history. The show featured a surprise performance by rock legend Stevie Nicks, two top awards to the company of Hamilton and more than 230 of the best actors, singers and dancers in New York.
The staggering grand total was announced Tuesday, April 26, by Christian Borle, Jennifer Hudson and Jesse Tyler Ferguson following two afternoons of inspiring and creative performances. The production featured 17 extravagant, handmade bonnets presented by some of Broadway’s most popular shows.
Borle, Ferguson and Hudson also presented awards for the best presentation and best bonnet design.
The company of Hamilton took top presentation honors for transforming their opening number into an homage to Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda chillingly portrayed the “demon barber of Fleet Street” as his fellow cast members retold the dark, twisted tale.
The company of Fun Home was runner up for turning West Side Story’s “Gee Officer Krupke!” into a plea to Miranda to write a show for them. But they ultimately realized that they could control their own destinies by creating roles for themselves, just as Miranda has done.
The sold-out crowd at the Minskoff Theatre, home to Disney’s The Lion King, cheered loudly when Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stevie Nicks made a surprise appearance to join the kids’ band from School of Rock – The Musical. The audience screamed as Nicks – with her distinctive, legendary voice – led the band in a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s classic hit “Rhiannon,” which Nicks wrote.
Max von Essen and Brandon Uranowitz from An American in Paris lamented theatre audiences’ addiction to taking photos and using smartphones during shows with the comedic “Turn It Off, Seriously.” The performance was topped off by the presentation of a clever, two-sided bonnet designed by Billy Hipkins featuring an exploding smartphone, which garnered the award for bonnet design.
Cast members of Chicago, carrying illuminated versions of Broadway Cares’ iconic red buckets, mesmerized the audience with an inspiring number featuring the voices of people helped by HIV/AIDS organizations that receive Broadway Cares grants.
In another emotional performance, South African cast members from Broadway’s The Lion King delivered a jubilant, drum-infused song, praising the power of humanity to overcome even the biggest challenges when united by one cause. The number featured Snothando Mbanbo, a South African teenager, and Nosipho Duma, co-founder of Umthwalume Community Services, one of more than 50 HIV/AIDS organizations funded by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lion King in South Africa.
Dancers from Broadway’s Wicked, in a piece choreographed by cast member Josh Daniel Green, delivered an elegant and touching performance to Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” sung live by the show’s member Daniel Quadrino.
Disaster!’s Kevin Chamberlin was joined by special guest Andrew Keenan-Bolger from Tuck Everlasting to recreate their “Alone in the Universe” from Seussical the Musical. The pair had reunited earlier in April as part of a post-show fundraising auction for Broadway Cares, organized by Disaster! creator Seth Rudetsky.
Cast members from Off-Broadway’s Straight joined Jake Epstein and understudy Greg Balla as they faced off in an impressive, invisible pingpong battle complete with human sound effects.
At the urging of social media personality “Annoying Actor Friend” Andrew Briedis, Kinky Boots’ Ellyn Marie Marsh dropped her heartfelt version of “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife in lieu of a Hamilton-inspired rap rendition.
The company of Off-Broadway’s Avenue Q also followed the comic trail with a humorous “In Memoriam” tribute to Easter Bonnet Competition, bidding farewell to everything from American Idol and Chris Christie’s political career to Empanada Mama and “man buns.”
Broadway Inspirational Voices, a choir of Broadway artists united to change lives through the power of music and service, offered a roof-raising rendition of Sondheim’s “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George.
Rachel York from Disaster! ended the show both days delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of the traditional Easter Bonnet Competition anthem, “Help is on the Way,” written by David Friedman.
This year’s Easter Bonnet Competition opened with a rousing production number honoring the 25th anniversary of the Tony Award-winning The Will Rogers Follies. Original cast member Cady Huffman led the Easter Bonnet Competition dancers in a grand tribute to the Best Musical of 1991. Joined by fellow original cast members Dana Moore and Wendy Waring and The Lion King’s L. Steven Taylor, the number reimagined the Broadway classic with an ethnically diverse, modern-day twist. The number was directed by T. Oliver Reid, choreographed by Rommy Sandhu and written by Jed Resnick with music direction by Ben Cohn and arrangements by Cohn and Ted Arthur.
The show also featured a special number honoring the tireless volunteers of Broadway Cares’ Bucket Brigade, conceived and directed by Jonathan Cerullo and featuring Esi Sogah and Bryan Austermann representing 167 volunteers. There was also a tribute to the hard-working national touring productions raising money across the country, choreographed by Kellen Stancil.
Broadway Cares’ affiliate organizations – Broadway Green Alliance, Broadway Serves and R.Evolución Latina presented bonnets with a featured performance by D1 Dance Company, a Peruvian troupe of young dancers which regularly collaborates with R.Evolución Latina. The piece was written and directed by Luis Salgado from On Your Feet! and choreographed by Michael Grijalva.
This year’s Easter Bonnet Competition was hosted by Cynthia Erivo from The Color Purple and Leslie Odom Jr. fromHamilton, Disaster!’s Kerry Butler and Jennifer Simard, Alex Brightman from School of Rock – the Musical and Carmen Cusack from Bright Star, Adam Kantor and Alexandra Silber from Fiddler on the Roof, and The Lion King’s Tshidi Manye and L. Steven Taylor.
The Crucible’s Tina Benko, Jason Butler Harner, Ciarán Hines, Saoirse Ronan, Ray Anthony Thomas and Ben Whishaw – with a special appearance by the show’s wolf-like canine, Luchta, and her trainer, Bill Berloni – thanked the 47 shows that raised funds this spring but did not perform.
This year’s judges were introduced by Laura Benanti from She Loves Me and by Roger Bart from Disaster!. The judges were Nicholas Barasch from She Loves Me, Reed Birney from The Humans, Sierra Boggess from School of Rock – The Musical, Joseph Leo Bwarie from Jersey Boys, Robert Creighton from Cagney, Jayne Houdyshell from The Humans, Alix Korey fromFiddler on the Roof, Kyle Scatliffe from The Color Purple and Nancy Van Duyne, vice president of congressional affairs at United Airlines, a longtime Broadway Cares corporate sponsor. Lee Perlman and Amy Rocchi, who won their judging spots by bidding on exclusive VIP packages at the 29th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction in September, also joined the panel.
|1st Runner-Up||Jersey Boys||$266,996|
|2nd Runner-Up||The Book of Mormon||$259,496|
|3rd Runner-Up||The Lion King||$164,151|
|Top Fundraisers – Tie||The Curious Incident of the Dog in
|Off-Broadway Plays and Musicals|
|Top Fundraiser||Avenue Q||$27,501|
|Top Fundraiser||The Book of Mormon – Latter Day||$362,842|
|1st Runner-Up||Wicked – Munchkinland||$320,581|
|2nd Runner-Up||Kinky Boots||$266,812|
The Easter Bonnet Competition was directed by Kathleen Purvis with Arabella Powell serving as production stage manager, leading a team of 12 expert stage managers. Ben Cohn was music supervisor. Lighting design was by Martin Vreeland and sound by Alain Van Achte.
Last year’s event brought in a then-record $4,711,386. Since the Easter Bonnet Competition began in 1987, the event has raised more than $68.8 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
This Year’s Program
The Easter Bonnet Competition is generously sponsored by The New York Times and United Airlines.
Photos by Jenny Anderson and Monica Simoes
Video by Reel Time Video Production; highlights video edited by Mo Brady