Broadway Bares: Strip U, the 27th edition of the annual burlesque-style fundraiser in New York, earned $1,568,114, a jump from last year’s $1,482,724 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, but slightly down from 2015’s record-breaking total of $1,598,501. Attendees watched 181 of the hottest male and female dancers in New York City—joined by a slate of special guests—performing with an absolute minimum of costuming.
For the fifth year in a row, Nick Kenkel manned the director’s chair for Broadway's biggest, barest burlesque show, which offered a university-themed show. The 2017 edition of the fundraiser was presented June 18 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan for two performances, 9:30 PM and midnight.
“An unrivaled evening of seductive striptease production numbers with an academic twist,” is the way the show described itself, taking place at “the only college campus where clothing is optional and bodacious burlesque is always in the curriculum.... Imagine the Broadway Bares take on a science lab exploding with sizzling chemistry or sculpted studs exhibiting model behavior in art class." The performance ended with a “rotation,” in which audience members were urged to stuff $20 bills into those jocks and g-strings.
In keeping with the college theme, Strip U began with Orientation and ended with Graduation, which bookended 10 lascivious "classes." The show was framed by a blue-nosed inspector from the U.S. Department of Education—bearing the curious name Dick Hunter—who kept snooping for reasons to eliminate Strip U’s federal funding.
Choreographed by Richard J. Hinds, ”Fine Art” showed an art class in which the Daisy Dukes-clad students pulled off the clothes of their callipygian male model to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”
“Going Greek” visited a frat house where Animal House-style partiers danced to “Shout,” and shed their togas as gold lamé-clad acrobatic goddesses whirled above the stage on spherical cages, arranged by Paul Stancato.
In “Pump 101,” a teddy-clad and platform-shod teacher instructed his students how to walk in high heels during a cheeky rendition of Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman,” choreographed by Kellen Stancil.
Choreographed by John Alix, “Feminist Studies” started with 1915-style suffragettes dancing in long skirts, which soon were flung aside to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” as young women of various eras showed off their empowerment, ending with huge photos of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, which brought cheers from the crowd.
Among special guests, Internet personality Randy Rainbow hosted the “Psych” class, a lesson on Pavlov’s dogs choreographed by Sidney Erik Wright to the songs “You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks” by Seasick Steve and “Lose Control” by Hedley.
The boys were up next for a lacrosse scrimmage, choreographed by Charlie Sutton, that featured Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Bang Bang” by Jesse J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj.
In a nod to The Rocky Horror Show, the students of “Chem Lab” cooked up a hunky Frankenstein-type dancer in a tub of chemicals, which provoked them to throw off their clothes and go into a frenzy, choreographed by Michael Lee Scott to the tune of “Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood,
The show "climaxed" with “Commencement,” in which a student graduated “summa cum loudly,” accompanied by a production number choreographed by Kenkel in which dozens of students danced while acrobats in diaphanous robes took to three of the suspended spherical cages, whirling above the crowd in crisscrossing light beams.
Other stand-out numbers from the night included “Pep Rally,” choreographed by Laya Barak (and featuring The Lion King’s Mufasa and Simba, L. Steven Taylor and Jelani Remy); “Observatory,” choreographed by Nick Kenkel with aerialists choreographed by Armando Farfan Jr.; and “Study Abroad,” choreographed by Sekou McMiller
For more information and BC/EFA merchandise, visit broadwaybares.com.