12th Annual Gypsy of the Year Parodies Aida, Seussical; Celebrates Chorus Line

News   12th Annual Gypsy of the Year Parodies Aida, Seussical; Celebrates Chorus Line Another Gypsy, another parody. Broadway's 12th Annual Gypsy of the Year, a culmination of weeks of fundraising for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, took to parodying the current Broadway offerings, laughing at Aida, Seussical and Rocky Horror Show and looking ahead to next year with jabs at 42nd Street and the entire Spring season.

David Lowenstein reads the lost book of Seuss; the company of Rent sings a Beauty and the Beast parody.
David Lowenstein reads the lost book of Seuss; the company of Rent sings a Beauty and the Beast parody. (Photo by Photos by Christine Ehren)

Another Gypsy, another parody. Broadway's 12th Annual Gypsy of the Year, a culmination of weeks of fundraising for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, took to parodying the current Broadway offerings, laughing at Aida, Seussical and Rocky Horror Show and looking ahead to next year with jabs at 42nd Street and the entire Spring season.

The show, held Dec. 4 at the Palace Theater, kicked off with a glance back to 1975 when a new musical moved from Joseph Papp's Public Theatre and revitalized Broadway. Many of the original cast members of A Chorus Line - including Wayne Cilento, Donna Drake, Robert LuPone and Priscilla Lopez - reassembled for a memorial salute to the 25th anniversary of the ground-breaking show. The audience erupted into a standing ovation that lasted several minutes at the mention of the performers and again after each person had been introduced.

A run-down of the Gypsy of the Year skits follows:

* Kiss Me, Kate saluted - in rhyme - all the upcoming Broadway shows, from Follies to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with bad puns ("Will Bells be Ringing? Have Faith!") and a "Gool Duck" sign.

* The boys of Beauty and the Beast had a special Christmas wish for 2000. Things would be better if their wrangler (the usually- female caretaker of children working on a Broadway show) was married a la "If Mamma Was Married" from Gypsy. They urged her to join wardrobe (it can't be that hard - and at least it's union!), to get a boyfriend (they'll find one that's not gay) or a life and to give up on the summer stock dreams of getting cast in a Broadway show. * Saturday Night Fever, in a "Stayin' Alive" effort, imagined choreographer Arlene Philip reconceiving the show as a 42nd Street-esque tap show. The number included a Peggy Fuller (pronounced "fullieh" - "it's French!") who took over for Orfeh after a disco ball fell on the show's diva.

* What if Susan Stroman had won a bid to direct The Lion King? To Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," the musical's cast showed what the Disney show would have looked like, complete with lionesses in yellow dresses and a refrain of "Nala, are you okay? Are you okay, Nala?"

* Michael Hall, current Emcee at Cabaret, revealed one of his extracurricular talents as Michael Flutely, the Lord of the Recorder. Skills included playing the theme from "WKRP in Cincinnati," along with several Irish favorites and demonstrating a "Look, Mom, no mouth!" method of playing.

* Swing! gave a sexy rendition of "Fever" with five couples dancing to Robert Royston's choreography and Stacia Fernandez on vocals.

* Rent's East Village became Beauty and the Beast's "little town" in a "Belle" parody entitled "Angel." The drag queen celebrated the unique charms of her home, complete with homeless bums and drug dealers.

* Four Guys Named Jose...and Una Mujer Named Maria parodied both Aida and Side Show ("Come Look at the Spics") with look alikes of Jennifer Lopez, Christine Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias (he's a producer on the show).

* It was a sing-a-long Naked Boys Singing! for the popular Off-Broadway show. Dressed as nuns with a taste for bad puns and tasteless names, the boys sang "How do you help a boy without a costume?" before leading the audience in the chorus.

* "Lost in Boston" is a popular CD series of musical numbers cut from shows pre-Broadway and it was material "lost in Boston" that the Seussical cast chose to share with the Gypsy crowd. In a parody of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham," the Cat in the Hat went through a list of the critics who had panned the show - Ben Brantley, Michael Riedel and Clive Barnes - while admitting "I do like Jeffrey Lyons, though / He's the one who liked our show!", before coming to a heart-warming conclusion about the joy of putting on theatre and pleasing audiences, no matter what the critical conclusion is.

* Les Miserables, while losing 14 minutes from its show, also decided to revamp the entire production. The new, X-rated Les Miz featured a Rocky Horror-esque Javert in fishnets, a lesbian Cosette and Fantine and pelvic choreography, sung to "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" from Gypsy.

* Off-Broadway's Berlin to Broadway lamented that their blue-hair crowd can only hear one tune out of the thirty Kurt Weill tunes they perform and that's "Mack the Knife." In fact, they insisted, to the tune of "Mack the Knife," that that's all their audiences want to hear, despite the wealth of Weill material.

* End of the World Party and Aida combined in a double effort that, through the societal boon of cell phones going off in a museum, bring Party's Jim J. Bullock and Aida's Matt Bogart together. The two move from ancient Egypt to Fire Island where Party's friends have some bitchy comments before eagerly submitting to handcuffing and a promised job in the "crystal" mines. Before Bogart and Bullock can be broken up, a special guest Aida (Harvey Fierstein) whisks the boys off to Burlington, Vermont where they are "civil unionized."

* Phantom of the Opera celebrated a special union allowance - the disability (aka maternity leave) clause - by bringing out the string of children born since the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical began performances 13 years ago.

* The Music Man parodied their own auditions with Susan Stroman. One auditionee suffered from residual movements left over from a 10-year stint with Cats, while another, who couldn't dance but was sleeping with the casting director, was given the Boyd Gaines treatment a la Contact. One child auditionee, labeled as having "Ritalin written all over him," secured his place on the show by yelling as he was cut "Thhit! I thought I had it!"

* Gwen Verdon was remembered in a Fosse dance number never performed live on stage. Verdon originally danced the three-hander piece on the Bob Hope Show in 1968, then taught it to original Fosse dance captain Lanie Sakakura, who danced Verdon's part in the trio.

* Miss Saigon, performing in their last Gyspy (the show is closing Jan. 28, 2001), remembered their past casts, bringing out performers from the 2000 company back to the original Broadway cast; the company members they've lost and how much they've raised in almost 10 years of fundraising. - over $2 million dollars.

Dec. 5, at the final, 3 PM “Gypsy” event, the winners, both of the best skit and fundraising prizes, will be announced. For the first year, plays and musicals will be considered in separate categories for the fund-raising prize, as Off-Broadway is put in a different category.

The Best Man's Jonathan Hadary hosted. Hadary performed with the first Gypsy of the Year, sponsored by the company of the Tyne Daly revival of Gypsy and held at the St. James Theatre.

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The following is the run down of 1999's Gypsy of the Year:

With the Gypsy of the Year and fund-raising winners already gathered on the Marquis Theatre stage, a flashily-frocked Dame Edna introduced her "goddaughter," Bernadette Peters, who announced $2,074,870 as the final amount raised in the six week fall fundraising drive for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The amount is a new record. The Gypsy of the Year initiative, with Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring troupes represented, raises money for people living with HIV, AIDS and other health concerns.

Winning the 11th annual fund-raising award was the company of Rent with $161,485. Second place went to Annie Get Your Gun with $159, 197 (Peters promised that her producers, Barry and Fran Weissler, would donate the extra $2,500 to tie her company with the kids at Rent). The Lion King raised $128,830; Phantom of the Opera, $119,931; and Ragtime, $115,688. The Off-Broadway company that raised the most money was Naked Boys Singing! with $25,054.

Cats took home Gypsy of the Year, the annual performance award for the best skit presented at the two-day presentation, Nov. 29-30. In order to continue Lloyd Webber Enterprise's goal of making Andrew Lloyd Webber the single greatest entertainment giant of the millennium, the Cats company announced the opening of Webberworld, a theme park based on the composer's works. Among the attractions in the spoof were Grizabella's "Touch Me" Petting Zoo, Phantomland's agonizingly slow chandelier crash and the Sarah Brightman Career Plunge, the "Unexpected Song" Karaoke Bar, Herod's Pleasure Palace where kids can walk on water, Eva's Bungee Jump Off the Casa Rosada, the "Surrender" Monkey Bar and the Whistle Down the Wind Motorcycle Spectacular, which, the company wryly noted, is not quite ready yet.

To give a sense of entertainment available at Webberworld, the Webberworld dancers sang and danced a manic, upbeat medley of "As If We Never Said Goodbye," "Unexpected Song," "Music of the Night," "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," "Memory" "What's the Buzz?" and the Joseph Megamix. Appearances were made by Webberworld's cast of characters including Norma Desmond, Eva Peron and, "everyone's favorite" -- a tap dancing Jesus Christ.

Runner-up for Gypsy was the company of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Their Scarlet Sisters (some of whom appeared to actually be brothers), decked out in tacky 1950s-style pastel dresses, beehives and black glasses straight of Lawrence Welk, interrupted the Gypsy proceedings three times with cheesy renditions of well-known tunes. Their final appearance, because "as we've learned at Scarlet Pimpernel, the third time is the charm," they created a nativity scene, the matrons serving as Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, and even baby Jesus, while singing "The Little Drummer Boy."

In the Gypsy of the Year's opening number, choreographed by dancer/choreographer Arte Philips, swing and disco, two Broadway dance styles prominent this season, strutted their unique stuff on the Marquis stage. The swing kids opened first, hopping and leaping until a mysterious white-feathered angel (Jennifer Frankel) stepped into their midst. Suddenly, it was disco night with a strong bass beat fast-forwarding a new set of dancers from the '30s and '40s into the 1970s. The two dance styles, although they don't yet mix nightly on a Broadway stage, came together in the end with choreographer Philips blending the two forms.

Hosting this year were Mary Testa (Marie Christine) and Ken Page (It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues). Testa was not short of Marie Christine gags, picking out the kids in The Lion King's number and musing that if they were in her show, they'd be dead. (The Michael John LaChiusa tuner opening Dec. 2 is inspired by Medea.) Page, for his part, suggested a nude Scarlet Pimpernel for the fourth incarnation of the show and, after watching a cross-dressing number, hinted that he himself had a dress or two in the closet. He also noted, accurately, that the entire Gypsy of the Year seemed to be about nudity and disco, but, he said, "Isn't that what life is about?"

The following is a selected run-down of the pieces performed by the Broadway and Off-Broadway troupes Nov. 30:

* The company of The Phantom of the Opera, led by Liz McCartney, sang the inspirational song, "You Are the Light," from the London musical, Metropolis.

* Les Miserables presented their entire show as interpreted through a high school cheerleading competition. Highlights included the lovely ladies with the numbers 24601 on their dance pants, a baton twirling Javert and a barricade constructed out of the cheerleaders themselves, who then spun a la the famous turn-table stage.

* The company of Kat And The Kings, told that their South African brand of singing is nothing like real American musicals, set out to show that they could easily do a classic Broadway show by singing "Surrey With The Fringe On Top."

* Naked Boys Singing!, appearing naked under strategically placed props, parodied the Act Two opening of Sunday in the Park With George, as they posed in a setting not unlike Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." They complained, "We're nude up here," and sang to their mothers: "I do not hope to be remembered like this." In the end, they turned to the audience, dropped their props, and revealed skin-colored jock straps with sequined red ribbons on them.

* In celebration of their 25th Anniversary on Broadway, Saturday Night Fever searched for Tony Manero that fit their exacting standards: "a fair to middling voice, capable of a good impersonation, no dance training required." While a sorry group attempted to do the walk, boogie and pose, the exasperated British casting agents decided to cast them all as Monty and do a whole show of Montys. While the new seven Montys showed off their moves, a group of singers sang "Fever" with "Night Fever" interpolated into the song.

* The Lion King, in a piece called "The Cure," sang in Zulu with an English rap and dancing provided by the Young Simbas and Young Nala.

* Eric Michael Gillett, who plays Roger, the stage manager in Kiss Me, Kate, rattled off his stage manager's to-do list, including "stuff Brian Stokes Mitchell's codpiece, remove stuffing from Michael Berresse's codpiece, deliver flowers from producers to Marin Mazzie, deliver flowers from director to Amy Spanger, deliver flowers from Brian Stokes Mitchell to Brian Stokes Mitchell..."

In a timely item, he noted, "Pay actors -- check, pay musicians - check, pay stagehands -- check, check, check, check check, check. I was going to say strike that, but..." (The Broadway stagehands' union reached an agreement with theatre owners earlier this week, averting a strike.) After complaining about how wonderful Marin Mazzie is, he then sang an ode to Shirley Booth, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn and Shelley Winters with "Leading Ladies Who Can't Sing." Mazzie herself appeared and dragged him off stage.

* Sandy Duncan was the butt of Chicago's skit, as she and the "Wheat Thinettes" did a number together. Duncan, wearing a leg and knee brace, entered carrying a "I'm Flying" sign and a broken rope. They had meant to parody Peter Pan by having her fly in, "throw some fairy s--t and fly out," but the rope didn't work. Instead she mocked her Celebrity Jeopardy appearance and sang a little before being told by the stage manager that Chicago was entering its theme-park schedule with a third show that day. Duncan passed out, but was revived by pink tutued Mark Price as Tinkerbell and the audience, who clapped to bring Duncan back to life.

* Valerie Wright, looking a bit like Jennifer Grey in "Dirty Dancing" -- in sneakers and Capri pants -- and the company of Annie Get Your Gun danced a slinkily comic interpretation of the song "Doodlin'," earning one of the Nov. 30 show's major ovations.

* In their final Gypsy appearance, Smokey Joe's Cafe lamented their upcoming closing and featured an appearance by the ancient version of Brenda Braxton's Smokey Joe's character (feather boa stripped and soiled, bound by duct tape), who has performed at past Gypsys.

Dame Edna Everage was a skit unto herself. Interrupting the introduction of the judges and assuming "I probably don't need any introduction," Dame Edna threw her gladiolas into audience, noting they are grown in her own manure and have slight healing properties. She said hello to all the friends of her son Kenny (code language for gay folk) in the audience and categorized herself as a "caring, old megastar." After thanking the Marquis for the use of "Tom Wombat's" dressing room, she introduced the judges: Anne Klein and Marion Duckworth Smith, who both bid for the honor, choreographer brother and sister, Rob and Kathleen Marshall, legendary dancer-choreographer Marge Champion, Wit's Judith Light and Continental Airlines' BC/EFA trustee Paul Stevens.