The 23rd Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition raised an all-time high $4,895,253, thanks to the tireless work of 53 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies during six weeks of intensive fundraising this fall.The grand total was announced at the December 6 performance of Gypsy of the Year, an afternoon of songs, original skits and dances performed by more than 300 singers, dancers and musicians representing the best of New York theatre community.
Since 1989, the 23 editions of Gypsy of the Year have raised a total of $49,031,973 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The previous fundraising record was $4.6 million in 2009. Last year’s event raised $3.7 million.
Hugh Jackman, Bernadette Peters and Daniel Radcliffe announced the grand total to a standing-room-only audience at the New Amsterdam Theatre, home to Disney’s Mary Poppins. The three presented awards to the top fundraising companies and best performances in this year’s show.
Jackman also was honored with a special award for raising $857,740 in only three weeks of his run of Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.
The 23rd edition of Gypsy of the Year, which was presented in two shows on December 5 and 6, was again hosted by noted Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky (“Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio), who kept the crowd of theatre lovers entertained with his always hysterical “Deconstructions” of the highs and lows of Broadway singing.
Gypsy of the Year, is the culmination of six weeks of intensive fundraising by Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies. The entire theatre community gathers for the competitive variety show, which features the most talented singers and dancers in the ensemble of shows, known as “gypsies.”
The audience erupted with cheers as the original 1972 Broadway cast of Grease took the stage, in a spirited reunion celebrating the show’s upcoming 40th anniversary. Stars Barry Bostwick, Carole Demas, Adrienne Barbeau, Alan Paul, Walter Bobbie, Don Billett, James Canning, Daniel Douglas, Katie Hanley, Tom Harris, Ilene Kristen, Joy Rinaldi and Mews Small kept the audience screaming in delight as they revisited songs from one of the most popular musicals in Broadway history.
The opening number, which also included 16 talented Broadway gypsies adding to the Rydell High student body, was created by Director/Choreographer Rommy Sandhu and Music Director Ben Cohn, with the generous participation of original choreographer Patricia Birch. Also present was original director Tom Moore and Jim Jacobs who, with late collaborator Warren Casey, co-wrote the unforgettable book, music and lyrics.
This year’s Gypsy of the Year performances ended with a heartfelt send-off to Broadway’s Billy Elliot, which will close January 8 after three years at the Imperial Theatre. Singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” as current Billy Julian Elia captivated the audience with his dance, more than 80 current and past company members appeared on stage including a reunion of nine Billys who have played the role on Broadway.
The show was filled with the humorous skits, jaw-dropping dance and remarkable singing that makes Gypsy of the Year one of most unique experiences on Broadway.
Leslie Uggams made a surprise appearance during Anything Goes’ spoof of Uggams’ notoriously flubbing of the lyrics to “June is Busting Out All Over” during a concert on the National Mall in Washington. A video of this performance ultimately made its way to YouTube, where it’s become a must-see sensation for any theatre-lover.
In a skit written by Mary Poppins‘ Tom Souhrada, four of his younger cast mates uproariously offered dramatic snippets of the “junior high editions” of some classic adult plays, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Streetcar Named Desire. Under the direction of James Hindman, young actors Lewis Grosso, Brigid Harrington, Kara Oates and Anthony Scarpone-Lambert nailed iconic characterizations of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Marlon Brando.
Jan Maxwell, Terri White and the cast of Follies hilariously lamented the January departure of their show from the Marquis Theatre to make room for Ricky Martin in Evita. Set to the tune of Evita‘s opening number, the Follies cast held a mock funeral for their show. Maxwell delivered a tongue-in-cheek eulogy that ultimately led to the surprise arrival of co-star Elaine Page, who originated the role of Eva Peron in London, singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Marquis Theatre”.
The cast of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying playfully explored the commitment to doing eight shows a week and not missing a single performance, no matter the injury or ailment, in a song-and-dance presentation written by the show’s star, Daniel Radcliffe.
The Addams Family‘s Adam Riegler, who plays young Pugsley, delivered a dead-pan stand-up monologue transforming the traditional Broadway Cares collection bucket into his own fundraising scheme as his show’s run comes to an end.
The cast of Mamma Mia! took aim at themselves in a skit that offered up potential new advertising taglines for the 10-year-old Broadway hit, such as “Mamma Mia:If you don’t know the music, you’ve never ridden in an elevator” or “Mamma Mia:Where careers go to die.”The stage became a make-shift confessional as Sister Act “Sister” Lael Van Keuren turned to “Father” Lance Roberts for guidance on finding ways to raise more money for Broadway Cares. His advice? “You just have to use what you got,” he said, “and raise your voice!”
Off-Broadway shows were well-represented in this year’s show. Wade Dooley of The Awesome ’80s Prom offered audition advice to budding actors from acting school owner “Mary Shennanbargger.” Christine Pedi and Amy Griffin of NEWSical the Musical brought divas Liza Minelli and Lady Gaga to the Gypsy stage to promote marriage equality. And Naked Boys Singing stayed true to themselves with a barely clothed tribute to Follies.
Silence! The Musical transformed horror film icon Hannibal Lecter into pitchman for his new Christmas album, “Hannibal for the Holidays.” Marni Raab, Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, recreated that show’s haunting folk-infused contribution to this year’s Carols for a Cure CD, “I Wonder as I Wander.” And the company of Memphisdazzled the crowd with an a cappella version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On.”Not lost among the comedy, wit and singing were homages to what makes Broadway’s gypsies so special: stunning dancing.
The Broadway company of The Lion King displayed exceptional grace and control in a captivating dance that demonstrated gaining faith in one’s self and others. Performing to music by Bobby McFerrin in a number directed and choreographed by cast member Ray Mercer, the dance taught us that to learn to trust ourselves, sometimes we need to “listen with the other ear”.
In a classic melding of choreography inspired by the legendary Bob Fosse, Ann Reinking and Michael Bennett, a cast of more than two dozen dancers celebrated Kander and Ebb’s Chicago, which this year became the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The smart and sexy number was choreographed by Melissa Mahon.
Cast members from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark displayed strength and a bit of Spidey weightlessness, dancing to an acoustic version of “Good as New,” a song written by Spider-Man bassist Aiden Moore. And in a tribute to all the national tours who find themselves constantly moving from city to city, choreographer Shea Sullivan led a troupe of tap dancers performing to LMFAO’s “Everyday I’m Shufflin’ ” with a special return appearance by everyone’s “favorite” Russian ballerina, Olga Vaginava.
Judith Light, currently appearing in Broadway’s Other Desert Cities, led a poignant moment of silence where she encouraged the audience to “take a moment to recommit to reaching beyond ourselves, to those who need us most, and to each other … compelled to do our part, however small, to ensure that all are embraced in times of trouble, isolation or crisis.”Other celebrity presenters included Nick Adams from Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Danny Burstein and Jan Maxwell from Follies, Russell Fischer and Quinn VanAntwerp from Jersey Boys, Beth Leavel from Standing on Ceremony: the Gay Marriage Plays, Michele Mais from Rock of Ages and Patrick Page from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Judges included Stephanie J. Block (Anything Goes), director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun (Bonnie & Clyde, Newsies), Kim Cattrall (Private Lives), Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon), Paul Libin (executive vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters and president of the BC/EFA Board of Trustees) and Tony Sheldon (Priscilla Queen of the Desert). Also joining the panel were Stephanie Toups and Karen Walter, who both won judging spots by being high bidders on exclusive VIP packages at the 25th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction in September.
The judges recognized the company of Billy Elliot as the best onstage presentation while the cast of Mary Poppins was runner-up.
This year’s fundraising competition ended with the following shows landing on top:
How to Succeed in Business…
The Book of Mormon
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Other Desert Cities
Off-Broadway Play or Musical
Wicked – Munchkinland
Wicked – Emerald City
The 23rd Annual Gypsy of the Year was directed by Valerie Lau-Kee Lai with Jason Trubitt serving as production stage manager.
Gypsy of the Year is sponsored by United Airlines and The New York Times.
Download Gypsy of the Year photos by Peter James Zielinski
Photos by Peter James Zielinski, Whitney Browne and Christopher Duggan