Masterpiece Turns Living Art Into Million-Dollar Evening

Flipping the traditionally staid art auction into a racy, risqué and altogether sexy parade of art-come-to-life provocative paintings and seductive statues, Broadway Bares XXI: Masterpiece served up a modern-day burlesque spectacle with 192 sexy and scintillating Broadway dancers.

Broadway Bares XXI: Masterpiece delivered as none others have in the past, raising $1,103,072, the highest total raised by any previous edition of Bares. The first Broadway Bares, in 1992, featured seven dancers stripping on a bar and raised more than $8,000. To date, the 21 editions of Broadway Bares have raised more than $8.6 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

From a feisty opening number setting Masterpiece in motion to the roof-raising finale that got everyone dancing, the gallery of fine art that came to life during two soldout shows June 19 at Roseland Ballroom delivered something for everyone. There was a bit of American history and African tribal magic, some twists on Surrealism and a few turns at the Impressionists. And, of course, a whole lot of glittery toned and tempting physiques.

Broadway Bares, created by Jerry Mitchell, who serves as executive producer, is produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, led by producing director Michael Graziano. This year’s edition was conceived by director Josh Rhodes and associate director Lee Wilkins.

Tony Award-winner Beth Leavel opened the evening’s auction house with a provocative original song “Going, Going, Gone,” written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. When Leavel introduced one of history’s best known pieces of art, Michelangelo’s “The David,” the crowd roared as one of Broadway’s most beloved “Davids,” Tony Award-winner David Hyde Pierce, was revealed in a white suit and fig leaf. Nearly 30 dancers flanked the dynamic Broadway duo in a high-stepping number that pumped up the crowd and started off the show with a high bid.

Without missing a beat, the gallery of art illuminated on giant on-stage screens took us back to the historic painting ofWashington Crossing the Delaware. The salute to one of our founding fathers came with a strip only Broadway Barescould deliver. Featured dancer Joshua Buscher turned George Washington into a sexy and demanding general as he whipped his army of revolutionary soldiers into shape. In this scorching number, Washington and his troops made even the most disenchanted citizen come to full salute and feel surprisingly patriotic.

The evening tapped the extreme corners of the art world to paint a tableau that was at times whimsical, sensual and erotic.

Beautiful full-figured women took to the stage in a tribute to Dutch painter Peter Paul Rubens, who was known for his fondness for painting luscious plus-sized models. Christine Danelson, Michelle Dowdy and Katy Grenfell led 22 dancers in a sexy display of femininity that left the crowds cheering for more of more.

Tony nominee Robin De Jésus played a mischievous frog in a game of bootie hide and froggie seek with MemphisAndy Mills and his group of country boys and one special masked guest – set among a Monet-inspired lily pond, represented by rippling screens of hand-painted silk.

Inspired by Belgian surrealist René Magritte, choreographer Mark Stuart created a dance of surreal elegance that literally lifted off the ground. Featured dancer Adam Perry, dressed in traditional Magritte wardrobe of dark overcoat and bowler hat, led an intimate, sensual dance that ultimately gave way to a trio of aerialists from the Living Art of Armando, who took flight and performed a jaw-dropping routine requiring both tremendous strength and extraordinary grace as they hung high above the crowd from iconic umbrellas.Strength and control also was highlighted in a solo piece featuring David Gray, whose intimate dance with a classic statue displayed both power and grace.

Finger painting took on a new meaning in the mind of choreographer Michael Lee Scott as he channeled Pablo Picasso’s abstract expressionism. In this Broadway Bares interpretation, a painting job turned messy as six painters tossed aside their brushes, their inhibitions and their usual canvasses, taking matters into their own hands – literally – to erotically paint each other.

The classic American Gothic inspired Broadway choreographer Dontee Kiehn to create a slightly naughty, country-themed hoedown. And DaVinci’s Mona Lisa took a mischievous spin as Kristin Piro teased and tempted Brandon Rubendall and a bevy of men.

The razzle-dazzle of Broadway shined brightly in an all-female ensemble dancing to forget their troubles and “Get Happy”, a salute to the song by Judy Garland and painting of the icon by Andy Warhol. On the naughty side, the Broadway Bares audience was left screaming for more after an S&M-fueled number, inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Edgar Degas’ love of ballerinas, which featured a stellar turn by Reed Kelly and choreographer Melissa Rae Mahon.

A nerdy gallery visitor, portrayed by Grasan Kingsberry, was transformed into a warrior when he touched an African Mask on display, provoking a celebratory, hard-driving dance. Hip-hop also helped drive the Jon Rua-choreographed empowerment piece giving energy and purpose to spray-can painters motivated by the pop art of Keith Haring.

The evening featured cameo appearances by several Tony-winning and nominated stars, appearing in hilarious and irreverent sketches written by Hunter Foster. Tony-winner Roger Rees, currently in The Addams Family, explored the Masterpiece “reserve collection” including a Fire Island-inspired Van Gogh painting, “Starry Night over the Meat Rack” and questioned whether Warhol’s infamous “15 minutes of fame” were up for comedian Tracy Morgan. “We can take a joke,” Rees drily remarked. “We just don’t think you’re funny.” If cheers were any indication, the crowd most certainly agreed.

Tony nominee Rory O’Malley from The Book of Mormon, as an art museum tour guide, came upon a slightly disillusioned Jim Parsons, currently in Broadway’s The Normal Heart. Parsons had arrived at the museum expecting the predicted religious “rapture,” only to be disappointed to find only the painting The Rapture. And two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber faced off with the always provocative New York Post columnist Michael Reidel in a good-natured verbal sparring match taking jabs at each other’s careers. “Hack!”  “Replacement!”

Sister Act‘s Tony-nominated Patina Miller led the full company in the evening’s high-energy “Final Masterpiece,” an uplifting homage to the Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George and its subject, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Judith Light, Tony nominee for this season’s Lombardi, saluted the dancers in the evening’s finale. Speaking to a cheering crowd of more than 3,000 people at the two performances, she said, “What we do tonight makes a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children across the country facing the challenges of living with HIV and AIDS. On behalf of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Broadway Bares team, remember that safe sex is hot sex – and that we can best love each other by always remembering to protect each other. Then what we do together will indeed make a difference.”

Judith also recognized M•A•C VIVA Glam as presenting sponsor of Broadway Bares XXI and introduced M•A•C’s Senior Vice President and Creative Director James Gager. He presented Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS with a check for $200,000, bringing M•A•C’s 14-year support of Broadway Bares to $1,764,500. M•A•C also provided more than 70 volunteer make-up artists to help prepare the show’s performers.

With all of the Masterpiece dancers on stage, both shows ended with Broadway Bares‘ “Rotation,” the only opportunity of the night to personally tip the performers for their fine art.

There were 13 remarkably talented choreographers working with 192 dancers to bring Masterpiece to life including director Josh Rhodes, associate director Lee Wilkins, Armando Farfan, James Harkness, Nick Kenkel, Dontee Kiehn, Stephanie Lang, Melissa Rae Mahon, Barry Morgan, Rachelle Rak, Jon Rua, Michael Lee Scott and Mark Stuart.More than 220 people participated in Strip-a-thon, an online fundraising competition among Bares XXI cast, crew and supporters, raising $233,371, with the team of dancers from the opening number raising the most money, an impressive $35,909. Fundraising runners-up were the American Gothic team with $32,468 and the Munch and Degas team with $26,597.

Reed Kelly was the top individual Strip-a-thon fundraiser, generating $20,795 in donations. Runners-up among the Strip-a-thon women were Madeline Reed with $5,391 and Kristen Beth Williams with $4,094; among the men were Steve Bratton with $13,200 and Andrew Glaszek with $7,326.

Broadway Cares thanks more than 700 volunteers of every stripe, variety and department whose generosity of time and talent make such an intricate and complicated event like Broadway Bares possible.

Bares 2011 fun facts

To view fun facts of the event click here.

We salute production supervisor Richard Hester, production stage manager Jennifer Rogers and the extraordinary stage management team of 38 men and women. Their tireless efforts were joined by an outstanding team of hundreds of choreographers, designers, technicians, volunteers on-stage, backstage, under the stage, upstairs in the VIP area and front-of-house.

In addition to Broadway Bares XXI presenting sponsor M•A•C VIVA Glam, generous support came from corporate sponsors The New York Times and United Airlines, as well as 1-800 Postcards, Absolut Vodka, aussieBum, CAA, Club H Fitness, Element New York Times Square West, Get Gay Chauffeur, Here Media, Logo, Next magazine, PMD Promotion, Showtime Networks and the Zarley Family Foundation.

See you next year!

Special thanks to this year’s Broadway Bares photographers: Peter James Zielinski and Morgan Shevett,
as well as Chris Fore, Kevin Thomas Garcia, Ryan Mueller, Matthew Murphy and Greg Weiner.

Download photos by Peter James Zielinski from Broadway Bares XXI: Masterpiece