14th Annual Easter Bonnet Raises $2,129,168; Footloose, Annie Take Top Prizes

News   14th Annual Easter Bonnet Raises $2,129,168; Footloose, Annie Take Top Prizes Bernadette Peters, Kelsey Grammar and the Broadway company members wearing their show's Easter bonnets were the first to see the figure as the Easter Bonnet dancers tapped out onto the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre: $2,129,168, a new record amount raised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Bernadette Peters, Kelsey Grammar and the Broadway company members wearing their show's Easter bonnets were the first to see the figure as the Easter Bonnet dancers tapped out onto the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre: $2,129,168, a new record amount raised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Peters had more than that number to squeal about -- her company raised the most money of any Broadway show, bringing in $181,000. Running up were The Lion King ($136,000), Rent ($121,700) and Chicago ($118,000).

The Off-Broadway fund-raising award went to Naked Boys Singing, who collected $26,490.

Footloose garnered the award for best bonnet and presentation with their highly original, no doubt youthfully-inspired headgear: a large derriere belonging to what looked like a Footloose chorus boy. Star Jeremy Kushnier sang about the fact that his company, despite horrific reviews and mockery by the news media, will manage to near their two year anniversary before vacating the Richard Rodgers for the September arrival of Seussical. He urged the critics to kiss their Easter bonnet before representations of the major newspapers, complete with big red lips, took him up on the offer.

Beauty and the Beast came in second with its Evita-inspired, long-run rant delivered by one of the musical's best pieces of cutlery, the Spoon, and Chicago came in third with their own Jeff Shade, who, stepping in as Roxie Hart due to the apathy of his company, performed high-flying baton tricks. *

While the focus is always on the funds for BC/EFA, the show is about the hats -- and the sketches that set up the presentation of each company's bonnet.

The naked gents over at Naked Boys Singing, carefully propped to disguise their...assets, sang a Music Man parody about -- what else? -- being naked, when all they desired was a good costumer. While bandying about names in chant ("Willa Kim, Willa Kim!" "William Ivey Long, William Ivey Long, Long, Long, Long, Long, Long -- get it?"), they discussed the closing of Cats (a popular theme in this year's skits) and their own dream ascent to Broadway before they were interrupted by their bonnet, complete with naked male dolls and a leggy chorine wearing it.

With Cameron Mackintosh and Disney combining forces, the company of Les Miserables found themselves suddenly downsized. So, the adult, rather tall Gavroche found himself replaced by an entire cast of children, decked out as pint-sized Javert, Valjean, Fantine, Cosette and Eponine. The littlest Miz kid wore the bonnet, a tri-colored flower arranged hat in the shape of the French flag.

Cabaret, dressed in pilot and flight attendant gear, thanked the audience for flying American Airlines Theatre, ran everyone through the safety features of the theatre and sang about the joys of earning frequent flyer miles in exchange for sitting through classics at the former Selwyn. Their bonnet reflected the corporate theme with mockups of the Gap, McDonalds and American Airlines Theatres.

Three minutes were all Amadeus -- or anyone else -- had for their skit, but the company boldly decided to run their entire play anyway. With a half old, half young Salieri (who is constantly trying to destroy Mozart by making well-timed nasty remarks) and a Mozart in a bright green "Pull My Finger" tee shirt, Amadeus managed to get their entire plot in and reveal their bonnet, a piano with their logo, altered to include two very Cats-like eyes, with hopes they would run "Now and Forever."

Cats, performing in their final Easter Bonnet (the only company still around who performed in the first 14 years ago), equated themselves with a certain famous sinking ship, as they realized the Webber World cruise vessel "Catanic" was on its way down. No matter; they sang and danced their way through several Webber tunes as they called Phantom for help (to which the Opera Ghost replied "We should reach your position -- in five or six years!") and wondered who would close first -- their show or the just opened revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. The company even parodied the current revival's "Thirty Nine Lashes" scene, as they ran at a Christ figure, grabbing life jackets off his outstretched arms.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that "Sing, Sing, Sing", according to the cast members of the Broadway dance revue Swing!. While they parodied the movements of Fosse and Contact to the popular, oft-appearing B'way song, they were quick to note that while "our show is hokey/at least we aren't a karaoke."

"Four Show Queen in a Room Bitching" was the cast of Jekyll & Hyde, who, alongside representations of their wardrobe department, attempted to put together an easter bonnet. And who would wear it, they wanted to know? Why, current Jekyll/Hyde and former "Melrose Place" star Jack Wagner, of course.

Other pieces included the mournful, mocking rendering of "Danny Boy" by Riverdance's Brian Kennedy, who regretted being "upstaged each night by Guinness-sucking Eurotrash" -- before being upstaged yet again by the same; Miss Saigon's swinging "A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird"; Aida's Ricky Martin video parody, "Livin' Aida Loca!", which mocked the show's technical and artistic troubles; a mock-serious choral version of "Stayin' Alive" with subsequent ode to big hair by a white suited, afro-wearing (which turned out to be the bonnet itself, disco ball included) chorus member and Annie Get Your Gun's first day of rehearsal, during which it's discovered that while there are no native Americans actually involved with the show, anyone can be an Indian, when properly attired by William Ivey Long, and assigned "authentic" Riverdance-esque choreography by Graciela Daniele and Jeff Calhoun. Their bonnet, not surprisingly, was a comically rendered totem pole, topped off with pictures of their producers, the Weisslers.

On a serious note, the cast of Kiss Me, Kate represented the AIDS virus in a dance that slowly killed off and absorbed their members while others spoke about people they'd known who died of AIDS or had HIV or AIDS, their own experiences with AIDS and their hope for the future.

The national touring companies were represented by two bonnets, from Fame and Ragtime and by the song "Seize the Day," sung by Petula Clark and the company of Sunset Boulevard.

In a salute to Stephen Sondheim's 70th birthday, the Easter Bonnet dancers opened the show with song and dance parodies of many of the season's Broadway offerings including Marie Christine, Contact and Riverdance, all done to Sondheim tunes from Company, West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, etc. At the end, Eartha Kitt emerged from the floor in a skin-tight red dress singing, "Bonnet Baby," in parody of Sondheim's Follies tune, “Broadway Baby.”

While established diva Kitt opened the show, new-found Aida diva Heather Headley closed it out with "Help Is On The Way."

Johnny Mathis, who released his CD "On Broadway" the same day as Bonnet, made a guest appearance to sing the title track from the album and to accept, alongside Clark, Target's annual gift to BC/EFA. This year the department superstore donated $350,000.

Mathis, then joined by the boys from Forever Plaid, sang "Life is just a Bowl of Cherries."

The ever popular ex-Ziegfeld Follies girl, Doris Eaton Travis, showed up in The Lion King's salute to the Follies, this time bringing along her 88 year old baby brother, Charlie, who also performed in the Follies (as a ten year old French prince, to the likes of W.C. Fields and Fanny Brice). She and Charlie demonstrated the 1913 Follies number, "Balling the Jack," and finished off with traveling music to get her and her chorus line off stage. Lion King's cast sang both a traditional and updated version of "A Pretty Girl," while pretty girls and boys as pretty girls strutted their stuff. Their bonnet was a sparkling representation of their lion's head logo design.

Among the celebrity announcers were Marin Mazzie, Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me, Kate), Deborah Yates (Contact), Wagner, Brian Batt (Saturday Night Fever), Patrick Stewart (The Ride Down Mt. Morgan), Thuli Dumakude (The Lion King), Michael Sheen (Amadeus), Jennifer Ehle (The Real Thing) and Rosemary Harris (Waiting in the Wings).

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Last year, the 13th Annual Easter Bonnet raised a then record $2,096,862 to assist people living with HIV, AIDS and other diseases. Top earners were The Scarlet Pimpernel ( $104,000), The Lion King ($142,000) and Rent ($162,000).