"Easter Bonnet" Competition Raises a Record $3.7 Million; Recap, Too

News   "Easter Bonnet" Competition Raises a Record $3.7 Million; Recap, Too
 
The Broadway musical Rent, which is set to close in September, said farewell to the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition by rallying to win the top prize in the competition, raising a record $277,739 in support of people facing HIV/AIDS, toward a grand total of $3,734,129 for the 22nd annual event, also a record.

An Easter Bonnet entry and Clay Aiken.
An Easter Bonnet entry and Clay Aiken. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The prize for best bonnet presentation went to Sunday in the Park With George, which presented two of the child members of the company, Kelsey Fowler and Alison Horowitz, performing "We Do Not Belong Together" in costume as George and Dot. The show's Easter Bonnet used a plasma lamp to create a mini lightning bolt under a small umbrella.

The $3.7 million total was raised by more than 50 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows in six weeks of post-show appeals from their respective stages. The previous record was set in 2004 when $3,435,997 was raised. The new total was nearly $400,000 higher than last year's $3,345,997.

Special guests Harvey Fierstein and Faith Prince (A Catered Affair) and David Hyde Pierce (Curtains) presented the awards at the Minskoff Theatre April 30 following two performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday).

Other awards:

   

  • The Broadway play that raised the most money: August: Osage County — $64,838.  

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  • The Off-Broadway show that raised the most: Altar Boyz — $19,632.  

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  • The touring show that raised the most: Jersey Boys in Chicago ($255,000).  

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  • Runners-up for fundraising (all Broadway musicals): Monty Python's Spamalot ($264,900), Wicked ($197,889), The Phantom of the Opera ($151,267) and The Lion King ($147,283).  

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  • Runners-up for best bonnet and skit: Naked Boys Singing and The Lion King (tie) and In the Heights.  

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  • Special award for Best Designed and Constructed Bonnet: Passing Strange (designed by Susan Goulet and Rebecca Naomi Jones, inspired by Kevin Adams).
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    Similar to BC/EFA's annual Gypsy of the Year event, the Easter Bonnet Competition presents cast members from various shows performing skits, songs and/or dances frequently spoofing themselves and other shows before presenting their elaborate "Easter Bonnet" presentation (literally, a trouper wearing a giant novelty bonnet).

    As per tradition, the winningest skits came from shows that made fun of themselves while sideswiping other shows.

    The Lion King dipped back into Broadway history, borrowing the leprechaun Og from Finian's Rainbow to make a magical wish (as he did for the racist white senator in that show) and turning the entire cast of Legally Blonde black (except for one black ensemble member, who turned white). The newly African cast performed "Omigod You Guys" as "Omigod, I'm Black." Their bonnet consisted of a huge stack of books with the show's logo changed to "Legally Black," rendered in a graffiti typeface.

    Also on an ethnic note, the largely Latino cast of In the Heights spoofed Broadway's supposedly monochromatic casting policies in "Un Dia Mas," a Latin rendering of "One Day More" from Les Miserables commenting on how the complexion of the Broadway neighborhood is changing, just the way Washington Heights is changing in their show. A surprise guest was Alex Gemignani, who played Jean Valjean in the recent Broadway revival of Les Miserables. He joined them in waving the flags of the many Latin-American nations represented in In the Heights.

    The cast of Naked Boys Singing did a parody of Jonathan Larson's "Brunch" from tick…tick…BOOM, which itself is a parody of "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park With George. In it, the boys lamented their show's bargain-basement production values (literally — their theatre is in a basement), but taking heart (and flashing some optimistic buttock) due to the fact they do have "Off-Broadway show" on their resumes. Their bonnet consisted of a tray with a three-foot stack of faux dirty dishes.

    A favorite target among the satirical skits was the budget-friendly lamb puppet used in place of a real lamb in the revival of Gypsy. Gypsy itself topped them all by doing an entire skit consisting of 15 tap-dancing, shorts-clad cast members working Lambchop hand puppets and five child cast members pretending to be lamb marionettes, all singing a version of "I Am What I Am" from La Cage aux Folles, but with the lyrics changed to things like "I am what I am/And what I am is a damn puppet." The show's bonnet (worn by Laura Benanti) consisted of a lamb turning on a spit over flames.

    There was only one reference to last fall's traumatic strike by the stagehands. Coming onstage to help award the prizes, Harvey Fierstein remarked on the high quality of the year's offerings and observed, "We should strike more often." When the response was subdued and perhaps confused, he explained, "...all that extra time to rehearse."

    Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, who won their leading roles in Grease through a TV reality show, helped read the names of the many shows that raised money but opted not to present a skit. Upon entering, Osnes dryly commented, "It's really an honor to be made fun of at all these events. All of them."

    In fact, the 2008 Easter Bonnet show began with a splashy opening number, "Project Broadway," poking fun at TV reality shows in general, but mainly at "Project Runway," a competition for clothing designers and models. The number was introduced by Jackie Hoffman of Xanadu pretending to be model Heidi Klum's rumpled Jewish sister, Rivka Klum.

    No BC/EFA event would be complete without a visit from Bonnet favorites Don Richard and Jen Cody, once again re-creating their roles as Officer Lockstock and Little Sally from the long-closed Urinetown, and offering some of the most savagely funny commentary of the event. "We're back," he said, "like an unnecessary revival of Gypsy."

    Asking what had happened since the last time they came around, Lockstock said there had been two "Frankenstein" musicals [the semi-operatic Frankenstein and Mel Brooks' still-running parody Young Frankenstein]. Little Sally lamented, "I heard the funny one closed."

    Veering into political commentary, Little Sally complained that sex-scandalous ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer couldn't tell the difference between being governor and being a casting director.

    Remarking on their own durable popularity (and on tiny-cast musicals), Little Sally suggested that she and Lockstock do their own two-person musical, "Maybe the same 40 people who see Xanadu every night will see us instead!"

    Another highlight among the sketches was an appearance by original Ziegfeld Follies girl Doris Eaton Travis, now 104 years old, who danced with a partner to a swing arrangement of "Singin' in the Rain."

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    Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the nation's leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fund-raising and grant-making organization. For more information visit www.broadwaycares.org or call (212) 840-0770.

    The cast reveal the final number.
    The cast reveal the final number. Photo by Aubrey Reuben
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