Easter Bonnet Competition Raises A Record $3.19 Million

News   Easter Bonnet Competition Raises A Record $3.19 Million Proving there's more green about Wicked than its leading lady, the popular Broadway musical won the grand prize at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' 20th annual Easter Bonnet Competition by raising $227,112 for the fight against the deadly disease.

The prize for best bonnet presentation went to The Color Purple, for the dance number "Lillies in the Field" in which dancers clad in purple welcomed a hat with purple and green streamers, which were taken up by the dancers like a maypole.

All told, $3,187,496 was raised by more than 50 participating shows in six weeks of post-show appeals from their respective stages, beating last year's $2,849,067.

This is the second highest total raised in the history of the Easter Bonnet competition. The record was set in 2004 (the infamous Harvey Fiersteinin Hairspray vs. Hugh Jackman in Boy From Oz year) when $3,435,000 was raised.

Special guests Julia Roberts (Three Days of Rain), Harry Connick Jr. (The Pajama Game) and Ana Gasteyer (The Threepenny Opera) presented the awards at the New Amsterdam Theatre following two days of performances April 24 and 25.

Other awards:

  • The Broadway play that raised the most money: Barefoot in the Park -- $76,694.
  • The national tour that raised the most: Wicked, the Shiz Company in Chicago -- $206,044. Runner-up: Mamma Mia! -- $155,000.
  • The Off-Broadway show that raised the most: Altar Boyz -- $22,888.
  • Runners-up for fundraising: The Color Purple ($185,399), The Phantom of the Opera ($176,412), Rent ($149,736) and The Lion King ($146,805).
  • Runners-up for best bonnet and skit: The Color Purple, Mamma Mia! and The Lion King.
  • Special award for Best Designed and Constructed Bonnet: Beauty and the Beast.
  • Similar to BC/EFA's annual "Gypsy of the Year" event, "Easter Bonnet" presents cast members from various shows performing songs and frequently spoofing themselves and other shows before presenting their elaborate "Easter Bonnet" entry. In honor of the event's 20th anniversary, "Easter Bonnet" opened with a salute to 1986, with dancers in gold lame channeling TV's old "Solid Gold" dancers and performing Broadway showtunes of the 1980s like "Castle on a Cloud," "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" and "The Lambeth Walk" accompanied by some of the more excessive dance moves of the 1980s. While sparkly-eyelidded girls clustered around him, one dancer sang "It's Hot Up Here" from Sunday in the Park With George, after which the ladies obligingly ripped his shirt off.

    Shirtlessness provided something of a theme for the evening, with the barechested male dancers of The Color Purple helping to win top prize. Among this year’s 16 other presentations was a skit by the cast of The Pajama Game in which they pretended to sell tickets to the show by tantalizing ticket buyers with the prospect of seeing Connick's pecs and nipples. The skit ended with Kelli O'Hara announcing that the show would be extending, with Connick being replaced by…Times Square fixture The Naked Cowboy, who did a cameo. Their bonnet consisted of a sculpted male torso.

    Tom Buonopane and Lawrence Goldhuber from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee had 'em rolling with "an interpretive dance" inspired by the failings of the Bush Administration. Dressed only in American flag-patterned shorts, the two portly actors rolled around the stage and each other to the sound of pop tunes, showtunes and Bush quotes, ending with the unveiling of their bonnet: a cowboy hat with a marquee reading "Worst President Ever."

    Michelle Dowdy of Hairspray went nearly shirtless (tassled pasties over a body stocking) for "Tracy's Nightmare," in which she sang of her worries about competing with casino showgirls when the show opens in Las Vegas.

    On a more buttoned-up note, Doris Eaton Travis, at 102 the oldest living Ziegfeld Follies girl, made her ninth annual appearance, earning a standing ovation for her rendition of "Ballin' the Jack."

    In honor of becoming the longest running show in Broadway history, The Phantom of the Opera closed the show with BC/EFA anthem "Help Is on the Way," performed by members of the show's cast, crew, front-of-house staff and the orchestra.

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