Color Purple Wins Big in Gypsy of the Year Competition

News   Color Purple Wins Big in Gypsy of the Year Competition The Color Purple was named the top fundraiser and also won the prize for best presentation at the 18th annual Gypsy of the Year competition, which wrapped up Dec. 5.
From Top: Scenes from The Phantom of the Opera and The Little Dog Laughed presentations.
From Top: Scenes from The Phantom of the Opera and The Little Dog Laughed presentations. Photo by Ben Strothmann

The musical raised $194,500 of the $2,992,800 gathered by the over 50 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national touring companies, which spent six weeks appealing to audiences during curtain calls for funds for the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The total edged last year’s take of $2,972,721.

The Broadway fundraising runners up were Wicked ($192,900), The Drowsy Chaperone ($185,900), The Phantom of the Opera ($153,800) and Jersey Boys ($133,250). The top touring company was the Wicked Chicago company with $175,000. The Little Dog Laughed was the top play with $44,330 and The Clean House won the Off-Broadway award with $26,700.

The Color Purple's presentation — a rendition of the Stevie Wonder song "They Won't Go When I Go" — won top honors at the competition's culminating Dec. 4-5 benefit event at the Neil Simon Theatre involving skits and songs written and performed by cast members from some of the participating shows.

Two Disney shows, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, tied for first runner up for the presentation award. The Lion King's presentation, entitled "Red," had two actors perform spoken work as three other actors performed a modern dance piece.

Beauty and the Beast's presentation, entitled "(We Are Working on That)," was a satirical take on how the song "Colors of the Wind" would be performed if there were a stage musical adaptation of the Disney film "Pocohontas." The staging included an incredibly off-key soloist (played by Marla Mindelle), a blue sky backdrop and dancers dressed as trees and forest animals with masks, antlers, giant inflatable exercise balls and other low budget props. Most of the other shows also had humorous presentations. Five of the actors from A Chorus Line who get cut from the chorus line after the first 10 minutes of the show sang about their woes in the song "Ten and Out." During the song, when the stage manager comes to yell at them, they quickly get back to what they're supposed to be doing during the show, which is singing "One" into a microphone in the wings.

Actors from Hairspray performed their rendering of what the show's song "I Can Hear the Bells" would look like in "Hairspray Version 2.0," in which gay marriage is legal. In the song, Link ignores Tracy and falls in love with a man.

The Drowsy Chaperone performed an alternative ending to the musical: The power in the apartment goes out, and when the super comes to fix it, he overhears hears the Man in the Chair's record. The super reveals his passion for old musicals, and the two fall instantly in love and start making out on the floor.

Two actors from Spamalot performed a fake Broadway news show poking fun at recent theatre news. The four actors from The Little Dog Laughed came out covered only in towels and performed a skit that culminated in near-nudity (their backs were to the audience).

A more serious performance came from Marc Shaiman, representing the show for which he wrote the songs and performs, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. He performed a song that he wrote for a woman named Karen, who was in the audience one night and had won Shaiman's songwriting services in an auction. Karen had fond memories of her now-deceased mother taking her to Broadway shows, and Shaiman's song was about their relationship.

Jonathan Hadary and Marin Mazzie, both currently in Spamalot, hosted the event. The celebrity judges included Cynthia Nixon, Jill Clayburgh, Marian Seldes, and the choreographer Christopher Gattelli.

The Gypsy of the Year competition has raised a total of $28,764,000 over its 18 years.

<i>The Color Purple</i> was named the top fundraiser and winner for best presentation
The Color Purple was named the top fundraiser and winner for best presentation Photo by Ben Strothmann