The 15th and grand finale edition of The Broadway Bears, the annual auction of handmade, one-of-a-kind, theatrically costumed teddy bears, raised a record-setting $198,300, benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Broadway lovers and teddy bear collectors came together Sunday, March 18, 2012, for one last time to bid on – and bid adieu to – museum-quality bears representing legendary theatrical characters and autographed by the stars who made those characters famous.
The cumulative fundraising total for the 15 editions of The Broadway Bears auctions adds up to a remarkable $2,048,427.
“What started as a one-time event with 20 bears in 1997 turned into a remarkable run of auctioning 643 bears raising more than $2 million,” said Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola. “Led by BC/EFA producer Scott T. Stevens, an extraordinarily talented team of Broadway designers, costume shops and wardrobe personnel designed, costumed, draped, dressed and frocked, painted, outfitted, stuffed and lipoed, shod and hatted, feathered, tattooed and armored, bedecked and bedazzled these furry masterpieces, giving of their time, energies and amazing talent over 15 years to create this unique and delightful fundraising event. The Broadway Bears truly reflects the creative vision, sheer artistry and technical skill that is the hallmark of all of Broadway.”
The top bid for the 2012 auction went to a stunning recreation of Joey from the Tony Award-winning War Horse. Designed by Barak Stribling and Jamie Filippelli and based on the working drawings the Handspring Puppet Theatre used for the Broadway production, the Joey bear came complete with his own bear handlers. Seth Numrich, who starred as Albert in the Broadway production, signed the bear and helped lead the live auction bidding to a staggering $20,000 final price tag.
An intense bidding battle between an in-person bidder and a telephone bidder helped propel a masterful recreation of The Lion King‘s Simba, complete with his lion-head headdress, to a winning bid of $18,000. Designed by Katie Falk, Ilya Vett and Islah Abdul-Rahim, Simba bear was signed by Julie Taymor, the show’s Tony Award-winning director and costume designer.
The bear embodiment of J. Pierrepont Finch, everyone’s favorite corporate climber from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, had little trouble finding a home among a flurry of bids. Finch bear, designed by Amy Micallef, wore a replica of Daniel Radcliffe’s complete opening outfit of green poplin coveralls over a dapper three-piece suit, including his trademark blue bow tie. Radcliffe’s two successors in the show, Darren Criss and Nick Jonas, both contributed their own smartly colored bow ties and all three heartthrobs signed the bear. The high bid for Finch bear was $11,000.
A trio of bears from the Australian outback collectively brought in $10,900. The bears represented the three leads of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, resplendent in their Tony Award-winning costumes. Stars Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams made special appearances at the auction, which helped boost the final totals. Adams’ Felicia bear fetched $4,500. Sheldon’s Bernadette bear, or as Sheldon called her, “Bear-nadette,” raised $3,400. And the Mitzi bear, signed by Will Swenson, added another $3,000 to the total. All three bears were designed by Amy Micallef.
One of the most visually spectacular bears was the Dragonfly Showgirl from the recent revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Designed by Polly Isham Kinney and Judith E. Marsh, the Showgirl bear featured a glimmering, jewel-encrusted headpiece and handmade jeweled-and-sequined wings. Original Follies cast members Harvey Evans and Kurt Peterson presented the bear, which was signed by Follies‘ 2011 revival stars Bernadette Peters, Danny Burstein and Jan Maxwell, as well as by Sondheim and costume designer Gregg Barnes. The Showgirl bear raised $8,000.
The bikini-clad bear representing Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue, the Divine Miss M’s 1975 Broadway show, arrived in her very own clam shell, a repurposed drum case that helped recreate the show’s unforgettable opening number. Designed by Kevin Phillips, this Broadway bear snatched a high bid of $7,000.
It’s been almost 30 years since Cats opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway, but it continues to thrive at The Broadway Bears auction. Skimbleshanks, the 12th character from Cats to be immortalized as a bear, raised $5,500. Skimbleshanks was designed by Therese Stadelmeier-Tresco and signed by Tony Award-winner Betty Buckley.
An exquisite replica of Cogsworth, the stern but endearing timepiece from the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, raised $5,250. Designed by Zoë Morsette, Cogsworth bear featured sculpted gold cabinetry complete with a decorative pendulum and his removable wind-up key.
America’s favorite Australian returned to Broadway last year and Hugh Jackman’s standing-room-only performance inspired this Matthew Hemesath-designed Hugh bear. Dressed in the Peter Allen costume that opened the second act of Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, Hugh bear was autographed by Jackman and sold for $5,000.
Wicked‘s Elphaba returned for one final, triumphant visit. Wearing an exact reproduction of her “Emerald City/Defying Gravity” costume, this year’s Elpha-bear was designed by John Henson and raised $4,750.
Three other lots each raised $3,600 for Broadway Cares: a pair of bears representing The Book of Mormon‘s Elder Cunningham and Elder Price, designed by Robin McGee; a Frankie Valli bear from Jersey Boys, designed by Rosi Zingales; and a bear representing Disney’s newest musical sensation, Newsies, designed by Cailin Anderson.
Several other Broadway stars dropped in to lend their support to the event.
Jeremy Jordan dashed over from a two-show day in Newsies at The Nederlander Theatre. Patrick Page helped present bears from three shows in which he’s appeared: The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and his current hit, Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark. Tony Award-winner Danny Burstein stirred up bidding on bears from two of his shows, The Drowsy Chaperoneand Follies. Norm Lewis snuck away from “Catfish Row” for a few hours to encourage bidding on Bess bear from The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, as well as his own likeness in the form of The Little Mermaid‘s King Triton.
And octogenarian Faith Dane, who played stripper Mazeppa in the original Broadway production and film version of Gypsy, left the crowd roaring as she literally tooted her own horn and flashed a bit of leg as she presented the Mazeppa bear.
Other Broadway stars who helped stir the bidding included Harvey Evans, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Zach James, Donnie Kehr, Ilene Kristen, Rebecca Luker, Andrea McArdle, Michele McConnell, Judy McLane, Laura Osnes, Justin Matthew Sargent and Jennifer Smith.
The unique event was again hosted by the always entertaining Broadway, television and film star Bryan Batt with the delightful Lorna Kelly reprising her role as auctioneer.
Batt kept the evening rolling, occasionally breaking into song and never slow with a one-liner. When Lombardi bear arrived, dressed in a vintage Green Pay Packers football uniform, Batt dubbed him the “butch” bear. And as the bidding picked up on the Hugh Jackman bear, Batt stroked the bear’s furry wig and quipped “Just think it’s Hugh, just think it’s Hugh.”
Kelly even became a bit of an auction item herself when, at the end of the evening, a generous bidder offered an additional $6,000 donation to BC/EFA in exchange for dinner with the esteemed auctioneer. Always the adventurous one, Kelly accepted.
The evening’s opening number was performed by Christine Pedi, Kurt Peterson and music director Michael Lavine. It was written by Douglas Braverman.
After the auction gavel came down for the last time, BC/EFA’s Stevens reflected on the spectacular 15-year run of The Broadway Bears.
“I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Stevens said. “We went out on a limb that first year, trying something that had never been done. We never imagined we would ultimately raise more than $2 million. And along the way, we were able to shine a spotlight on a part of the community that does not often get to stand front-and-center – the tremendously talented designers, not only those working on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, but also, for many years, the doll and teddy bear artists who gave so much of themselves to us. It’s been a tremendous opportunity.”
Broadway Bears XV Designers Class of 2012